It’s Banned Book Week, the week in which the American Library Association informs the public of censorship attempts in libraries and schools. As a (very recent) graduate of the UNC School of Information and Library Science as well as a voracious reader (pre-Daniel at least), I felt compelled to post about it out of fear that my library card and degree would be taken away if I didn’t. Pretty sure there’s a law about it somewhere.
Did you know that almost half of all book challenges were initiated by parents? When I look over the list for each year of the top 10 most frequently-challenged books, I see a lot of friends there:
- Harry Potter
- The Color Purple
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- the Alice series (Phyllis Reynolds Naylor)
Reading was my everything as a child. I grew up in a rural area, and all of my friends lived “in town.” I wasn’t a social misfit or anything, and it wasn’t Little House on the Prairie, but I read a lot. Books sustained me. I read and still do read everything: popular fiction, non-fiction, history, classics, magazines. I’m in no way a book snob.
I thought I was going to be a high school English teacher, and I remember in one of our teacher-prep classes, a professor asked what we thought our students should be reading. This professor was elegant and a world traveler. She was married to a British man (the peak of sophistication!). I think we expected she was thinking of the classics, educating the next generation on the Western canon (or what some refer to as “Dead White Men”). She surprised us. Instead she said:
Anything. It could be a cereal box, but as long as they are reading something, it’s a good thing.
Censorship is awful, but there seems something especially pernicious in censoring books. Books represent new worlds, new ideas, new points of view and telling someone they can’t have access to those things seems morally reprehensible. Who are they to judge where an entire group is developmentally? Who are they to restrict information from groups based on morals that only they may share?
When J and I were expecting Daniel, we wanted two things: J wanted him to enjoy cuddling and loving stuffed animals like they were a member of the family. I wanted him to be a reader. And Daniel is both. He loves cuddling his stuffed menagerie and he loves books. My friends threw me a book shower to start his library. In the two years Daniel has been with us, I think we have doubled his library. He loves books. He is at the age where instead of immediately bringing over a book for me to read him, he will study the book on his own, figuring it out for himself. I told J last week that I would never, ever deny Daniel a request for a cuddly (as we call his stuffed animals) or a book. At night, we read him 8 or 9 books. Last night, he amazed us by supplying many of the words in The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
I don’t want a stranger dictating what my child reads. I want that to be a conversation between the two of us. No book – even the Twilight series (ha ha) – is off limits. There may be books that I prefer he wait to read until he is a bit older, but that’s our decision.
Is there a book you love that is on the banned/challenged list?