Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A summer reading challenge

What do Captain Underpants, Fifty Shades of Grey and Beloved have in common?

One commonality is I've read all of these books. Captain Underpants at the request of my kids, Fifty Shades out of curiosity and Beloved as a personal challenge. But the commonality I address here is that these three titles are in the top 10 of the frequently challenged books of 2012 (find the list here). A total of 464 books were challenged last year for various reasons.

As a parent, I reserve the right to challenge the books that my children read. A recent graphic novel that was listed as age-appropriate for my 10-year-old contained sexual references that were definitely not age-appropriate. But I don't want anyone else telling my son he can't read that book, or telling anyone else whether or not they can read that book. It is my responsibility to make that choice, and I also rely on the professionals at his school, at the library, at the bookstore to assist when I'm looking for age-appropriate reading material. No, I don't want him reading about auto-erotic asphyxiation (as I said, he was 10. He doesn't know what that is, so he asked me. And it's not really something I wanted to explain!) but that doesn't mean I want the book banned.

I can't get behind the idea of censorship; the government has no business in telling me what I should or could or can't or won't read. But it's not all government influence in these banned books, challenges to these books come from the good citizens of our country, people like you and me. But, I think maybe those who petitioned for the banning of The Kite Runner (for reasons including offensive language, religious viewpoint and sexually explicit scenes) may have missed the point of the story.

Books are important. Books that challenge our ideas, our security, our sense of right and wrong, they matter. This year, as I build my summer reading list, I'm using the books found on the American Library Association's banned books page. Then, from September 22-28, I'm going to celebrate Banned Books Week and the freedom to read.

What books are on your summer reading list? Are you planning to read any challenged books?


  1. I have read 45 books on the top 100 book list. Two of the books are on my sons list of suggested books to read from his language arts teacher for 7th grade.

    Its not just the govt. banning books its movies too. I remember when Oklahoma banned the movie The Tin Drum as child pornography. They actually sent police to peoples homes that had it rented to confiscate it and took it out of the library. My good friend Lee Brawner the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Public Libraries stood up and fought for it against censorship and eventually a federal judge ruled it was not child pornography. I hear people say don't read that book its against christians dont see that movie.
    I think I should be able to decide for myself and I also believe my intelligent 13 year old can decide for himself. I do
    I do however read almost everything he reads not just to check it out but to be able to talk about it with him...GO BANNED BOOKS!

    1. You are right--and it's also not just the government doing it, it's people from all over with all sorts of strong opinions. But the strong opinion that matters most to me is the one that encourages freedom of information.

      I think that our kids will stumble upon information that we as parents may not feel is appropriate for them, but that won't stop them from stumbling upon it. It's up to us to handle how they digest it, give them guidance and feedback to put it in context.

      And if I'm told not to read something? You know for sure I'll be seeking it out! :)

  2. Another kid-lit friend and I have been researching sexual references in middle grade books, trying to decide if I've gone too far by having my 12-year-old appreciate things like long legs and curves in his crush on an older girl. "Auto-erotic asphyxiation?" I can't even imagine. The government should never stop books from being published, but we do need to be able to rely on professionals such as librarians to help us choose appropriate material for our children to read.

    1. You know, I didn't take away that book from my son... I sat and explained, in what I consider an age-appropriate manner, what was going on. I didn't give him too much information and I've always been honest with him, but he knows that the information I give to him is meant for him; it's not information that he's meant to share with friends or others at school. I trust that he will adhere to this guideline. That's a whole 'nother post right there! Parenting issues and appropriate subjects. :)