This week is Banned Books Awareness week. For me, when I grew up, my parents tried to be supportive of me as a voracious reader, and one way that they did so was to not limit my access to a wide variety of books. They would try to check everything I read (although that quickly became a Sisyphean task), but they never outright said that I couldn't read a book. My parents would either ask that I have a discussion with them about the book after I read it (usually on a specific part of the content that they didn't agree with), or (less frequently) would tell me to wait a couple of years to read it. As I was a fairly easily frightened child back then, I do think that forcing me to wait was a good course of action. However, my parents always let there be a future opportunity for me to read a book - they believed that I deserved to have access to all different types of books, including those that presented radically different views and philosophies than what they'd taught me.
I understand that not all parents hold this view. I understand that there's content in books, particularly YA books, that many parents believe is inappropriate for kids and teens. However, those aren't good enough reasons to remove a book from libraries and classrooms. While some books have more value than others, a couple of upset parents shouldn't be allowed to arbitrate what content the students of an entire school have access to. Some of the books most frequently challenged are some of my favorites, and are often taught in schools because they have a brilliant thematic value. If those parents don't want their child to read a specific book, many schools allow alternate books to be assigned. Though access to a book is theoretically only a couple of clicks on a smartphone away, many children (myself included) discovered their favorite books in schools and libraries. Additionally, if they think that reading one questionable book will completely subvert their efforts to raise an upright child, then there are bigger issues at hand.
So read banned books. Go to local school board meetings and advocate against banning books in our schools. Parents, have discussions with your children instead of censoring their content. Go to a bookstore, pick up a challenged book, and enjoy the fact that in the pluralistic society we live in, access to books isn't - and shouldn't be - controlled by an indignant minority.
For more information on Banned Books Week, visit the website of the Office of Intellectual Freedom of the American Librarian Association and the website of the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). For resources on how to combat censorship, see Judy Blume's Resource Guide/Toolkit on Book Censorship in Schools.
What are some of your favorite banned books? Have you had experience in combating censorship in local schools?
YA Fridays are brought to you by Carolyn. Carolyn is an AP student, voracious reader, competitive archer, nerd, and foodie. In the event that she is unable to become a companion of the Doctor or Sherlock’s blogger, she hopes to pursue a career as an editor in the future. You can find her on twitter at @YAlitfrenzy.