Friday, October 1, 2010

Book Crooks

"If you resist reading what you disagree with, how will you ever acquire deeper insights into what you believe? The things most worth reading are precisely those that challenge our convictions."
~Author Unknown

This week was "Banned Books Week" here in the U.S. In essence, it's a week set aside to celebrate "the freedom to read" in the face of schools, libraries and bookstores that think otherwise. This Website, courtesy of the American Library Association, lists 10 of the most challenged books - meaning that schools tend to "ban" these books from their reading lists because, in one way or another, they are deemed inappropriate for school kids to read. Add to this list all of these challenged classics, and you have to wonder what exactly kids DO read in school.

The classic books on the more extended list are classics for a reason. Why on Earth would anyone ban Winnie the Pooh? Because he's a bear who doesn't wear pants? What bear does?

More seriously, I'll turn my attention to two books. To Kill a Mockingbird is an absolute MUST-READ, by children and adults alike. Of the many books I've read over the years, this one remains as my #1 favorite book. Harper Lee paints such a detailed description of the era, the racial tension and attitudes, the quest for morality, the curiosity and innocence of children. This year marks the 50th anniversary of this incredible novel, and has been celebrated by millions as the best novel of the 20th century...and even the best novel of all time. And still, it is banned by some schools for the language and themes, both sexual and racist. But they are not mere words plopped into the pages for shock value or disdain. They are part of the story, the characters, and the ugly truth of racism in the South in the 1930s...or for that matter, today.

Catcher in the Rye is another one that is often banned for language/situations, but it's really no worse than what your kids are watching on TV or hearing on the radio. I remember reading this when I was a teen, thinking it would really be some scandalous, juicy book since it was supposedly "banned." It really was tame. What's notable is the voice used by Salinger for the snot-nosed flunky who is lost in so many ways. It's the voice of a kid who feels alienated but tries to act nonchalant to everyone around him. The voice is not one that is going to turn your kid into a raging alcoholic or sex fiend, or whatever else scares you.

Fun Fact: Parents are the largest group of challengers to books (based on these reports), and they protest against sexually explicit material the most (yet, "inaccuracy" is almost the least reason for challenge.)

So, it's ok to read something totally inaccurate and have your kid remain ignorant than to have them learn from a celebrated novel because it may contain a brief moment of mild sexuality? I guess it's better that they learn about the birds-n-bees from Snooki. Unless kids are assigned Mein Kampf or Osama bin Laden's Messages to the World to read in class, is it really necessary to pull the plug on literature like this?

Maybe not all books are appropriate, but, in every great book, there is always something to learn. There are many ideologies and experiences in this great country of ours that should be celebrated through literature, and unlike many other places, we possess that freedom to do so. Is it really fair to our nation's youth to take that freedom away because of unfounded fear? When a book is banned, you are taking away so much more away than just a book.


Badger said...

I find the whole thing strangely terrifying. I just do not understand the concept of banning books. The same children could watch Jersey Shore which would give them more sex, violence, pornography, conflict, etc than they could ever read about.

Christine said...

I agree that it's terrifying. I'm always so surprised that people, in this day and age, can still be so narrow minded. My favorite is that they ban the likes of Harry Potter because of fear the stories will turn kids toward the occult. Crazy.