This week we are celebrating the freedom to read! So why are we calling this week Banned Books Week? Because the freedom to read can be a controversial subject.
You may be surprised at the books that are frequently challenged. Aren’t The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Where the Wild Things Are among the pieces of literature that make up American culture? Aren’t these the books that have resonated throughout the generations?
People have accused Where the Wild Things Are of promoting naughty behavior in children. Others have suggested it can have a frightening impact on kids, with the notion that they can be sent to bed without dinner. Of course, people have a right to these opinions. The beauty of freedom of speech is to hear all sides, even if you blatantly disagree. But, barring other people from reading that material stomps on our beloved First Amendment.
You have the freedom to read. You also have the freedom to choose what not to read, and so does your neighbor. Now, where does the public library fit into all of this?
The public library must balance upholding the First Amendment and meeting the needs and interests of its local community. It must also provide diversity, accessibility, and the ability to check out materials without judgment. As the wise saying goes, “A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone” – Jo Godwin.
Now for a potentially even messier topic: the public library and children. A lot of times, well-intentioned parents want to ban books to protect their children. They may want the “right” morals surrounding their children. Or, they simply want their kids to read “enriching literature,” instead of anything they consider non-literary. Of course parents should guide their children toward reading good books. It is a parent’s job to shape and prepare their kids for adulthood. But banning books from the library takes away other parents’ rights to guide their own children. Going full force with censorship is dangerous. Who decides what is the “right” material to read? What voices will get silenced? Will humor and sarcasm be suppressed? This sounds like a dark and gray dystopian novel to me.
So, let’s take a look at some children’s books that have been repeatedly challenged, either in public libraries or in schools. The public library gives you a choice. You may celebrate Banned Books Week by choosing to read one of them, or by choosing not to. (Source: American Library Association)
- Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling – Challenged for “occult and Satanic references.”
- Bone, by Jeff Smith- Challenged for, “political viewpoint, racism, violence.”
- Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank- Challenged for Frank’s “anatomical and graphic descriptions.”
- The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, by Dav Pilkey – Challenged because it contained the phrase, “poo poo head.”
- And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell- Challenged for “promoting homosexuality and anti-family values.”