Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Banning Books

This week is Banned Books Week and an important reminder that we must allow for challenging view points to be available for students and the general public.  As a teacher, there is always the concern that some parent somewhere will become upset over a book that is part of the school curriculum.  The list of books that have been challenged and banned in places is incredibly long.  It includes books like Winnie the Pooh, The Scarlett Letter, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Animal Farm, To Kill a Mocking Bird, The Lorax, The Outsiders, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, and many, many more.  You can see a list on South Dakota State University Library's website.

I look at some of the books and can see why they might not be offered in a high school library.  Fifty Shades of Grey and Madonna's book Sex are a couple of good examples; however, if a high school student showed up to class with the book to read on his or her own, I would respect that student's desire to read.  

I remember a time when a parent that was homeschooling a student asked for a list of AP books to help her student prepare for college and an AP test.  This parent did not want any AP books that used inappropriate language, sexual references, or extreme violence.  I struggled to think of any books.  I gravitate toward more modern fiction, but knew I could not recommend Grapes of Wrath, Catcher in the Rye, Great Gatsby, Fahrenheit 451, Catch 22, Frankenstein, or a host of others.  I know that there are some other books that might be considered acceptable, but I felt bad for that chance at great literature this student may never get.  

It is hard enough to get students interested in reading.  It is important that libraries can offer a wide selection of material to be available for potential readers.  When a parent challenges a book because they disagree with it based on religion or their own personal sense of morality, it runs the risk of limiting knowledge and access to opening new minds.  I do think that it is okay to question if certain material is age appropriate.  A good librarian is trained to examine material and help guide the library based on the audience.  

So, I encourage you to go down to your local library, thank the librarian working there, and check out a book that has been placed on the challenged or banned book list.  The book may challenge your world view, but what a better way to discover a little nugget of humanity.

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