My parents let me read any book I wanted. No they weren’t without religious belief or strong opinions, they just firmly believed in growing a reader, an individual, who could make decisions for herself. Me!
Yes, any book I wanted to read. With one condition — I had to discuss it with my mom after I read it. (Much to my dismay sometimes! You try discussing sex and incest in Flowers in the Attic with your mother and it will make you think twice or ten times about reading the book at all.)
Because of my parents, I learned to be a more analytical and critical reader. Thanks to my mom, I could never read a book without thinking. My mom forced me to ask questions of myself like, “Does this seem realistic?” “Could this happen?” “What do you think about . . . ?” In eight grade, I could surmise that the Harlequin romances I’d read were the most poorly written books in the world and not worth my time.
Growing up, I got to make my own choices and to censor the books I thought weren’t worth my time, for whatever reason.
I choose. Not a school board. Not a library. Not my teacher. Me.
Banned Books, Parenting, and Schools
In 2011, a Missouri school board voted to ban two books from their high school library — Twenty Boy Summer by YA author Sarah Ockler and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.
Sarah Ockler responded brilliantly to the news saying, “Look, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times more. I get that my book isn’t appropriate for all teens, and that some parents are opposed to the content. That’s fine. Read it and decide for your own family. I wish more parents would do that — get involved in their kids’ reading and discuss the issues the books portray. But don’t make that decision for everyone else’s family by limiting a book’s availability and burying the issue under guise of a “curriculum discussion.”
Here’s the problem: Censorship takes away the reader’s right to choose. It takes away an important freedom to think critically for oneself.
The National Teachers of English explains in The Students’ Right to Read: “Freedom of inquiry is essential to education in a democracy.”
If you’re a teacher, you might like to read: 12 Banned Books Week Classroom Activities.
As parents, we can stand against censorship for all and instead, teach our children how to make good book choices and how to self-censor. In other words, as a parent, I teach my children how to select an appropriate book for themselves. As Ockler said, if it’s not something I want my child to read, I’d rather my kids know how to decide for themselves what book fits for our family’s guidelines. (Not have the choice taken away from them!)
Banned Book Week Activities
Banned Books Week varies from year to year but is usually the end of September, beginning of October. I’m updating this post for 2015 when banned book week is: September 27 – October 3, 2015.
As in years past, you can submit your own video on a special YouTube channel about the freedom to read.
Quiz yourself — have you read these 100 most challenged books?
Read these 10 YA books featured for #bannedbookweek 2015:
(My personal favorite is the Sherman Alexie novel because it changed / informed my thinking so much.)
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
- Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
- The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
- The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
- Drama, by Raina Telgemeier
- Chinese Handcuffs, by Chris Crutcher
- The Giver, by Lois Lowry
- The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
“Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.” – Voltaire
Do you read banned books? What are your favorites?
How do you help your child learn to self-censor?