Thursday, September 28, 2006

Banned Books

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?


Katrina said...

It seems that there are more and more books coming out that "normalize" behavior that we, as parents, would never condone or encourage. For that reason alone, it is critical that we be vigilant about what our children read. But I also agree that it can be helpful, even important, for our kids to read about "questionable" topics at some point - when they are mature enough and in the context of family discussion.

As for banned books... I don't know. I don't know if I trust those who make the ultimate decisions. And while they may ban some books that I would never want my kids to read, they might also ban books that could prompt discussion at home about important topics. And I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere down the line, good books are banned for "religious intolerance."

The bottom line is, I need to know what my kids read, I need to stay involved in their "reading lives" and I need to make sure not to "over-shelter" them - to make sure we talk about all the things that will confront them at some point.

Was that a cop-out answer? :)

blestwithsons said...

Sherry at Semicolon has an excellent post on the subject. Here in America we actually don't have any banned books. The ALA defines a book as banned if someone questions it for any reason. So if you don't want a book on homosexuality in the preschool section - the book is considered banned. Meanwhile, if the ALA themselves decide not to put a book in the library for their own reasons - well that's not considered banned. Anyway - Sherry writes about it much better than I do.

lady laura said...

Book-banning is an interesting topic. I am personally a book-banner within the walls of this home. There are certainly books that I wish my parents had banned ME from reading.

That said, following Katrina's thoughts, it is a dangerous thing when done by entities outside the family. There could come a day when religious books and even bibles are banned.

Heather said...

I just wrote a very long answer. Very long. I clicked Login and Publish. Blogger - curses on both your houses.
Sorry, I just don't have the energy to get up all that go again.

Dianne said...

Interesting topic. I don't think I'm in favor of banned books by public entities. I think a better response is to inundate ourselves and kids with God's word so that we will be able to discern in these types of situations. Inundate with God's word - as opposed to innoculating ourselves with questionable content. Or like K said, it's easy to "normalize" that content. Rules (bans, etc.) will never be an effective deterrent against wrong choices.

kailani said...

I remember reading all the Judy Blume books when I was younger. I think it's up to the parents to decide what their kids should be reading. This also gives them the opportunity to sit down with them and openly discuss different topics.

Jen Rouse said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your statements that it is the parents' responsibility to monitor what their children are reading (and watching and listening to). I also agree with Katrina's comment--if we ban the books that we think are inappropriate, what happens when someone in power decides that the Bible is too narrow in its viewpoint and ought to be banned? Censorship is a dangerous road to walk down. I think it's a matter for families to take into their own hands, and to decide what their children are mature enough to handle.

e-Mom said...

We've always taken the position that the parents are responsible for a child's education--even if they're in public school. We sent our kids to public school through sixth grade, and I felt it was critically important to know what they were reading. By the grace of God, we were able to our kids to a private Christian school in jr. high and high school, where the teachers and administrators did a very fine job--a huge relief. We have always discussed books (and movies) in our home. I look for books that present a redemptive world view.