In honor of Banned Books Week (September 21-27th), I decided to do a blog post about banning and challenging books.
There are many reasons parents challenge and attempt to ban books from schools, the most common being “unsuited to age group” (989 challenges), “offensive language” (1,291 challenges), and “sexually explicit material” (1,577 challenges). While I do not personally enjoy reading books with bad language and explicit material, I do not agree with the idea of banning books.
A few days ago, this City Weekly article was brought to my attention. Shannon Hale’s books were banned from a number of Elementary Schools simply because they were “unsuited to age group”, the reading level recommended for 6th-8th graders. Shannon’s Hales Books of Bayern are my favorite books, but that isn’t why this article made me upset.
When I was in 3rd grade, no one could tell me my reading level. When I sat down and took the test on the computer, my teacher just laughed and laughed at my results and when I asked what it meant, she just told me that I broke the test. I was so blessed to have that teacher, Miss Russell, when I did. We read Harry Potter together, racing to see who could finish first. She cultivated my love of reading into something real. I would stay late at school just so we could have the most adult discussions on books, and she treated me like an equal and not the child that I was. She would ask me serious questions about what I was reading, and she taught me the analytical skills that I still use when reading and writing, but that was only a small reason why I needed her at that time in my life.
That year, we frequented the school library. I would devour every book I checked out. The most recent book I had devoured was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (reading level 5.9), and I just discovered there was a second one, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (reading level 5.4). When we got to the library, I went right to the spot where I knew the book was, and I grabbed it off the shelf in anticipation. I NEEDED to know what happened next. I got to the check out counter with the book and my ID number (we didn’t have cards when I was in 3rd grade), and the librarian took the book and placed it on a shelf behind her. “I’m sorry, Alyson,” she said, “You can’t check out that book. It’s below your reading level.” Never mind the fact that I was reading two levels above my grade or that I was in the middle of the series. “You have to check out a book from this section of the library.”
I don’t remember what happened next. Just a blur of anger and confusion, grabbing a random book off the shelf to check out, and crying when I got back to class. My wonderful teacher saw everything that happened, and told me that I didn’t have to read that book if I didn’t want to. She told me that the librarian shouldn’t have done that without talking to her first, and she’d fix it. I stayed in her classroom after school was over, and Miss Russell went to the library and checked out the book I wanted on her own card, then she came back and traded it for whatever book I checked out earlier. Miss Russell told me I could read whatever book I wanted, and I didn’t have to listen to what anyone said. And we never went back to the school library.
NEVER EVER tell a child that they cannot read a book. It messes with their mind. It shuts out ideas and creativity, limiting what they think they can accomplish. My 12 year old brother-in-law is currently reading The Oddessey. He’s 12 and no one told him he couldn’t read that book. I didn’t even attempt to read that book until I was in high school when it was required reading.
Speaking of required reading, I found this list of some commonly banned books. How many of them have you read? And how many of them are required reading in schools?
14 books on that list are required reading where I went to school. And the Bible is on here because of how it can affect religious beliefs. Yes, I was required to read excerpts of the Bible in high school. We were reading creation myths and comparing religions in different areas of the world, trying to find similarities. I’ve read at least half the books on that list.
Could you imagine living in a world where Fahrenheit 451 is banned? 1984? The Giver (soon to be a major motion picture with major changes from the book)? Night by Elie Wiesel can’t be read? Are we not allowed to talk about the horrors of the Holocaust anymore? Look at all the lessons you learned from these books. Can you imagine a world where students don’t read these books to learn about history? Huck Finn is banned because of historically accurate word usage that can be considered offensive. Of course it’s offensive! That’s why it’s used! That’s part of the purpose of the book!
Banning these books is ruining the educational system. Books were written a certain way to express specific ideas and ways of life. Removing any of these books is not only restricting the writers, but restricting the readers as well. Banning books is harmful to everyone.
Stop telling people what they can and cannot read because it always does more harm than you can see. If I hadn’t had such a fantastic teacher, my whole life could’ve changed. I would be a completely different person. I could’ve stopped reading completely, like a lot of people that I simply because someone tried to restrict what I was allowed to read.
And like I said earlier, while I prefer books without explicit ideas or foul language, banning them is not a good idea. There are plenty of people who don’t mind foul language in the books that they read, but I’m not going to restrict what they want to read just because it’s not something I want to read. Leave the choice up to the readers and stop banning books.