September 23 - 30 is banned book awareness week. The ALA (American Library Association) website has some interesting information on why books are challenged or banned (and the difference between the two terms). Their information about banned books is here. Of all the books challenged by far the most cited reason is that they are "sexually explicit." I have to say that I agree certainly that these books should not be assigned in class. A movie that has a steamy love scene will earn an R rating. Those sex scenes are nothing compared to sexually explicit writing in novels, even something as "mainstream" as Danielle Steele. A child who is under 17 is not allowed to buy a ticket to an R rated movie. That is because the movie contains material that should be filtered for a child. I think it's perfectly reasonable for me to expect as a parent that a book containing a graphic sex scene or even explicit sex talk would not be expected reading for my child in high school, no matter the literary merits.
I've read some of these books. I read the Judy Blume books in high school, like Forever, which is still on the top 10 most-challenged list because of sexual content. I honestly wish now that I had somehow been protected from that exposure. But did I check out that book in the school or public library? Did I buy it in the Young Adult section in the local bookstore? No. It was passed around from friend to friend. In honor of being aware of banned books, I'm reading The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger, because I've never read it, and it is still one of the most challenged books, and is considered by many to be a "classic." I want to get my own take on it. I will report my review of this book, as well as my thoughts on some of the other popularly banned or challenged books later this week.
As a mother, my initial thought is one of thanksgiving that certain books might not be made available to children, say in an elementary or even a junior high library, or certainly assigned as Junior High or High School reading for a class. There are books that I don't want my daughter to read (at 8 years old and able to read at a higher level than that). There are books that I probably won't want her to read in high school. There are books that I avoid reading myself for certain reasons. But honestly, I think that books are windows--sometimes to different codes of conduct, involving drug use or sexual promiscuity; sometimes to different times, when offensive racial slurs were used freely because of a different accepted standard of thought; sometimes to completely fictitious worlds that transport us to a make believe place and time with an entirely new code of conduct. I think that by supporting the banning of books, we are in some way trying to pass off our parental charge. It is my responsibility to know what my daughter is reading and know about the books that her friends read and talk about. It is not the duty of the library system or bookstores to prevent these books from being circulated at all.
What do you think of banning books?