I'm very pleased to be joining in on Sheila's Banned Book Week event at Book Journey. As a former library employee, I certainly have my own opinions about banned books and we always highlighted some of the so-called 'banned' books during my time there. I used to love doing a big display of some of the books and then watching them be picked up and checked out during that week. Doing my little part to see that those books or ones like them circulated.
So, you may be asking - what are banned or challenged books? They are books or materials that someone wishes to remove from the library shelves or restrict in some manner. Here's a link to the American Library Association's website. And here's a link to several lists of frequently challenged books. In my years of working at a library, I talked about books with patrons all the time. Sometimes, people would have a question about a certain book - was it appropriate for children or was it shelved in the most appropriate location? Occasionally, someone would ask how they could get the library to remove a book from the shelf permanently. I don't think I ever thought that anyone did this with bad intentions. More often than not, it was about their children and about protecting them from what they perceived as 'bad things'.
One of my first questions was always, 'have you read the book yourself?'. Sometimes the answer was yes, often it was no. Sometimes I would have personal knowledge of the book or material mentioned, having read it myself. Sometimes not. I was not the manager of my branch and so I would pass along information about how they could pursue their challenge if they wanted to. However, there were times when I could talk them through their uncertainty and provide information enough to satisfy them. I always suggested that they read any book that had been assigned to their child or indeed that their child wanted to read, if they had concerns. I would explain that in my experience, tough topics learned about together with your child could provide much food for discussion. I would relate my own experience as a parent and try to find common ground. I would also suggest that if their child had been assigned a book at school and they, as the parent, genuinely felt uncomfortable with it, talk to the teacher and ask for a substitute book. It would always be given.
Occasionally, a patron would be angry and belligerent regarding some library material. Usually, these individuals were not interested in discussion - they just wanted their way. Happily, we didn't have too many of those instances. The assistant manager of my branch was on a committee that considered challenges that had been bumped up the line to the library director's office and they met monthly, read the books or materials challenged, and then made recommendations to the director for her decision-making process.
Did I ever see a book banned while I was there? I honestly can't remember one. I did see a few items removed from the children's section and moved to the adult shelves. One in particular, and I can't remember the name but it was about women's bodies, I felt was a good decision. It was still available, but not so easily picked up by a child.
So, take a look at the books most frequently challenged in 1990-1999. And the books most frequently challenged in 2000-2009. From these lists, I'd like to recommend 10 books for your enjoyment and edification. You are probably at least familiar with several of these. In my opinion, they are all worthwhile. And Happy Banned Books Week!!
by Shel Silverstein
by Roald Dahl
by Caroline B. Cooney
by Katherine Paterson
by Laurie Halse Anderson
by David Guterson
by John Grisham
by Ken Follett
by John Steinbeck
(Austin's Mayor's Book Club Read for 2015)
I'm always amazed at books on the banned lists - usually because I've read many of them and can't figure out why someone would want them banned.ReplyDelete
You and me both, Mary. I do understand that people have different opinions about many topics, but no one is making you read the material.Delete
You were the kind of librarian that could make a difference. What amazes me is that people are so eager to restrain other people's reading. It is one thing to choose not to read a book, and something else entirely to try to choose the books another person should or should not read.ReplyDelete
I agree about restraining others. I am the first to say that there are books out there that I will never, ever read. However, far be it from me.....Delete
I can't believe all those books were banned somewhere! Crazy! A Time to Kill? Really? Thanks for sharing your experience as a librarian...it's an interesting perspective.ReplyDelete
Banned Books Week used to be my favorite time at the library. Loved doing the display. Many people had the same reaction as you've just had. And then they would pick up a book and check it out. Score! LOLDelete
Excellent post! I love your first hand point of view - right from the library!ReplyDelete
Sheila, thank you so much for organizing this event. It's important, I think.Delete
I'm surprised by most of these I mean really! I can see how they cover some uncomfortable subjects but hardly offensive. I used to volunteer in the bookfair at my older kids' school when they were in elementary school and I once had a father come in and start screaming at us because we had had the audacity to sell his daughter a Harry Potter book. He wanted us to get rid of the whole section. From what he was saying about them I'd put money on the fact he'd never read them.ReplyDelete
I'm not surprised, Katherine. I didn't include the Harry Potter books or the Hunger Games or even Dr. Seuss in my list. I could have made this post an epic one - in length anyway. LOLDelete
It amazes me that people want books banned, especially books they've never read. They're obviously afraid of new ideas. I've read 4 of the books you listed.ReplyDelete
Yes, I think that often a little fear is behind things like this. Good to hear that you've read 4 of them, Kathy.Delete
I've never considered myself the banning type, but my kids' elementary school library now has YA titles that I don't consider appropriate for their age group at all. I don't think parents should have to worry about what their kids might pick up at an elementary school library. It's different in junior high and high school and, of course, at public libraries. But at an elementary school library?? Some books should definitely be restricted, IMHO. 'Course, everyone has different ideas about what's appropriate, but still ... our librarian recently tried to "sell" IF I STAY to a class of third graders ... that's just not okay, in my book.ReplyDelete
I really do understand this. And you aren't really talking about banning, as such. Would you show an R movie to an eight year old? No. It is just good judgement to let a child mature before certain subjects are introduced. We do not let our little ones stay young long enough. Elementary school is for middle grade reading books, or what used to be called J books. I find some YAs too old for me! I'm surprised the elementary librarian/teachers don't use more common sense.Delete
Susan, I certainly understand what you're saying. And I agree. I also agree with what Nan said about R rated movies. There have to be some guidelines. I also feel that school librarians, especially at the elementary level, have to walk a fine line regarding what might or might not be appropriate. And the surge of YA books that have been written in the last few years has made these decisions complicated. There is such a wide range of topics in them. Some are certainly more appropriate for actual teenagers or even older teens.Delete
Also, may I say that you are exhibiting the kind of behavior that I like to see with parents. You have read the material and so can comment knowing what is involved. I got so frustrated with people who wanted to 'ban', but had not investigated the material, had not read it, did not intend to read it, and had just 'heard' that it was bad.
Thanks for bringing this up! Well done, you!
I think I've read all of those. As a teacher one year I had a student whose father had been very unhappy that her former teacher had read one of the Harry Potter books to the class, as a Christian he didn't like the magic elements in the book. So when I was planning on reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to the class I sent a copy of the book to the parent, gave biographical evidence on the author and some background info on the book. The father read the book, sent me a nice letter and I had no problems.ReplyDelete
Very good. As I said, I always asked if the person had read the material. Sounds like you managed what could have been a difficult situation quite well. :-)Delete
-sigh- The mentality, that I must impose my beliefs, on everyone else. Bahhhh-humbug....ReplyDelete
Your suggestion, that parent and child read something together, is wise. How better to pass on the views of the parent? And then, what the child does with them, is up to the child.ReplyDelete
How a child forms his/her views, is out of the parent's control anyway. Which is common sense. But what better way, for a parent to _try_ to influence, than by mutual discussion?
I think it's a good way to share things with kids. Know it doesn't always work, but why not try?Delete
Great post, and I like how your tried to have a discussion with the complaining parents, and how sometimes, they could be persuaded to study the books further.ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing...
Gah...I like how "you" tried.Delete
And no book banning, please!
I always felt that 'talking' was the first step to understanding.Delete
Though I have read many books that are on the ALA's list of challenged books, I have not read any of the ones on your list. I must remedy that situation soon. Thanks for sharing your recommendations and your experience in the library.ReplyDelete
And thank you for coming by and commenting. These are good books, by the way. :-)Delete
Nice little bit in a recent Longmire episode about Of Mice and Men. I enjoyed what you wrote and also the comments. This is the.best.thing about blogging. Discussion. Not 'likes' but meaningful conversation.ReplyDelete
I know! I felt that was a hat tip to this part of the year - just a little one. I can see that some would feel that Of Mice And Men was complicated, with lots of issues. Good book for discussion, right?Delete
I read it ages ago when I was young and strong. Ha! I'm sure I couldn't bear it now. Pretty cool that you think that was a tip.Delete
I've read most of the books in your list, and I highly recommend them, especially A Light in the Attic, Snow Falling on Cedars, A Time to Kill, and Of Mice and Men. Thank you for your intelligent approach in dealing with book challenges from your library patrons.ReplyDelete
Thanks for your kind comment, Sally! I appreciate it.Delete
Pffft. I recognize alot of those books that either were required reading when I was in school or my kids. The Stupids? Really? I loved those books. I checked them all out of the library for my kids. A Wrinkle in Time? One of my all time favorites. I still have a copy. Go Ask Alice: we were shown that movied in the 70's in a home ec type class. Oh yes it was sooooo damaging .... I don't remember anything about it except the music. Jefferson Airplane/Gracie Slick. Oh well, so don't read it is what I say.Delete
Yep, I understand what you're saying, Gayle. And, yes, The Stupids. I think we can all find some books we love on the list. I mean, Harry Potter is on the list. LOLDelete
Enjoyed reading how you handled patrons requests when you worked in the library. Here's to celebrating freedom to read! I love some of the books on your challenge list. Some great stuff there which should be read!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Iliana! I love sharing these type books through displays. Didn't love defending them quite so much when people were upset. LOLDelete
I would say that it's the parent's responsibility to monitor what their children read and look to books as conversation starters.ReplyDelete
Yep, I agree.Delete
All excellent book selections. I did not know that The Pillars of the Earth was a challenged book.ReplyDelete
Apparently so. I just looked at both the lists I linked to above. Not sure why, but probably sexual content or something like that.Delete
These are such great books. I had no idea Bridge to Terabithia was on the list, too! I love that book!ReplyDelete
I know. I do too. My daughter's elementary school librarian suggested it to me years and years ago.Delete
There are some books that cover sensitive issues but I see no reason why they should be banned. I feel it's a good thing to talk about such tough subjects with our children through reading these books together, rather than dismissing them and pretend nothing happened.ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing your list, Kay! I've to check them out. ;-)
You said it very well, Melody!Delete
I've read all bar 3 off your list ... yay. I didn't realise Snow Falling on Cedars was ever challenged. The 'reasons' for challenges seriously baffle me although I do understand the relevance of age appropriateness, to me that is more about common sense?? To read or not read a book is a choice, a choice I'd like to keep ... not have someone's often misguided opinion forcing the issue.ReplyDelete
Great post Kay :)
I totally agree. People get very passionate about things though. Thanks for the kind words!Delete
Thank you for this great post. I'm glad you shared your library experience with banned books. I've often wondered about that. I agree with everyone who is amazed at the books that are banned. It's especially true when I learn that one of my favorites is considered "not fit for anyone to read." I'm amazed when someone wants to decide what I can or cannot read. I'm grateful to all those involved in Banned Books Week. Its good that this subject is highlighted every year.ReplyDelete
I think it's important to highlight each year too, Margot.Delete
Oh my goodness! Either my kids or myself have read just about every book listed! We're renegades in my home:)ReplyDelete
I just don't get the banning of books issue; I really don't!. If you don't like a book, don't read it. If you don't want your child to read it, find something else that will satisfy them or their teacher. But don't try to take them from others. I don't like a lot of music I hear on the radio, or artwork I see in modern art museums. Should I demand to remove them too?
It's puzzling to me as well, Rita. We renegades have to stick together. LOLDelete
I'm so pleased that I've read many of the books on your list. I really don't get why people want to ban books. And it astounds me how often it appears they want to do so without first having read the book. Why would someone even do that?ReplyDelete
Why - well, because people believe everything they read online. Right? LOLDelete
I like the solution of moving books to the adult section. I don't really understand the mentality of wanting to ban books. It seems so small minded. But that's coming from a life long reader who considers books a window to the world.ReplyDelete
I love the way you put it - window to the world. Totally agree. And the moving the books solution was a good one, in my opinion. Now, when the book was already in the adult section - well, then things got more complicated. LOLDelete
I've read all the frequently banned books you listed. It still blows my mind that we have banned books in this country!ReplyDelete
Mine too. It's sad.Delete
I'm so thankful for the libraries - ours did a special exhibit just for Banned Books Week. It is so important to keep an open mind about books and libraries can help a community do just that. Thanks for sharing about your experience as a librarian!ReplyDelete
I enjoyed reading about your experiences when you were a librarian. It's sad that there were so many challenges that there had to be a committee to review them all.ReplyDelete
Thanks! I agree about the committee. However, I think that probably it was also to get more opinions regarding the challenged materials.Delete