Since we are coming up on Banned Books Week, (Sept 25-Oct 1) I thought this might be a good time to blog about why this is celebrated and some great suggestions for banned books.
I am a librarian. Every year when we celebrate our freedom to read in our library, we always get these questions:
“What is a banned book?”
“Where do I find a banned book?”
“Why do you display banned books?”
And I understand why we get these questions. Why would we promote banned books? Shouldn’t we censor those books that could potentially be harmful reading? Shouldn’t we tell people what they should and should not read by banning and burning books?
Most emphatically NO!
What a wondrous gift we have as librarians, teachers, parents and ourselves to read these wonderful pieces of literature. What gifts we have that stories are being told that break through the lines that are drawn in the sand and draw them for ourselves. We have the power of choice to decide what we absorb into our minds by celebrating the freedom to read. We give back the power to the people to censor what they read for themselves rather than censoring that for them. Therein lies the beauty, read it or don’t. Check it out or don’t. Buy it or don’t. What a fantastic way to celebrate intellectual freedom by displaying and talking about banned books.
For a minute, let’s talk about some of the books that have been banned from schools and libraries over the years.
Perhaps one of the most talked about books this last year; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. She published a follow up to this book, Go Set a Watchman and then passed away in February. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most powerful and influential books of our time and many have wanted this books removed from libraries and from school curriculum. In 1995, it was actually removed from a school in Mississippi and in California because of its “racial themes” and issues of rape and objectionable language.
Where the Wild Things Are is a wonderful story of adventure and growing up and even unconditional love. This treasure has been read to nearly every child at bedtime over and over again. Yet, this classic children’s tale that has sold 20 millions copies worldwide, is still being censored in schools and libraries. The comments were that this book was full of “witchcraft and supernatural elements.” Therefore should not be read to children or anyone for that matter. Where the Wild Things Are is among those books will stay timeless and unforgettable. This story should stay and is available for anyone that chooses to delve into its pages whether it be adults or children.
Fifty Shades of Grey; not much has to be said for this one. Everyone has either heard about the content or they have read it for themselves. The biggest reasons that people believe this book should not be available are: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”). Yes it is sexually explicit. Is it unsuited to teenagers? That would be up to the parents and the teenagers to decide. Is it poorly written? Perhaps, but that shouldn’t deter people from being able to read it. I have read any number of poorly written books (my opinion of course) yet I would never feel the need to make sure that no one else could read it.
That is the beauty of Intellectual Freedom. We have the choice and we should celebrate it and stand up for it. If you want to read a book about talking animals, supernatural elements, explicit sex, religion, violence, racism, homosexuality, offensive language or even a really poorly written book, then read it, buy it, borrow it from your library. I am proud to say that “I am with the Banned,” and I hope you will too!
There is a list of Banned Books for 2015 and my favorites in the menu above.