September 29, 2019- Banned Book Week
Updated: Oct 9, 2019
This was Banned Books Week! I love this week because it gives us an opportunity to have a conversation about censorship and banning books. Things that are going on all the time, yet we often do not hear about it, or we pay no attention. Some interesting 2018 statistics:
- 531 books were formally challenged
- The American Library Association believes that as many as 80% of challenges go unreported
- 33% of challenges were by library patrons, 32% by parents, and the rest was a combination of religious groups, politicians, etc.
- The top reasons for challenges:
o LGBTQ content
o Sexually explicit
o Religious viewpoint
These are all complex topics/issues and truly not appropriate for all readers, all the time. But there is a vast difference between monitoring and controlling what you and your children/family read and trying to make that choice for others. As a mother, grandmother, and teacher, I know that there are books that should not be read by children, even if they are capable of decoding the words and reading the text. They may not be ready to deal with such complex, heavy topics. And I applaud the parents who are vigilant enough to monitor and assess what their children are reading.
As an educator and a citizen, I do not believe that because you find a book inappropriate for your child, that no child should have the option of reading it. That is what censorship and banning books is about. To limit the reading choices of our citizens. That is not ok.
As a reader, I am often surprised to find certain book titles on challenged/banned book lists. Most are books that are extremely well written, often cover an uncomfortable topic or issue, occasionally challenge our beliefs, and always make us think deeply. Those are things I like to see in books.
As a writer, especially a writer of children’s books, I am always cognizant of appropriateness when I am asked to recommend what age children should read my books. Saving Home, for example, has very complex vocabulary and sentence structure, but has a topic that would be appropriate for most elementary school children. Forcing Change though, while simpler in structure, has a very heavy topic. And while it is not overtly violent, because it takes place during civil rights protests of the early 1960s, there is often references to the violence that the protestors endured. Very young children might not be ready to process such things.
Over the years, some of my favorite books have appeared on Banned Books lists. I am saddened by the thought that someone may not have had a chance to read a book like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of Anne Frank, or the Harry Potter books. Choosing not to read a book is absolutely fine. There are lots of books I chose not to read. But making reading choices for others by banning books is horrific.