Musings From A Bookmammal

Musing Monday–Banned Books Week 2014


Click here to play along!

Click here to play along!

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or, you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!

Here’s my musing for this week–

2014 banned books posterBanned Books Week is Sept. 21-27 this year, and banning/challenging books is a hot-button issue for many people. Here’s a brief description of the purpose of Banned Books Week from the ALA website:

“Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, these books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.”

So that’s the background. You can find lists of frequently challenged books here–as well as the reasons for the challenges.

Here’s my take:

I believe that parents ABSOLUTELY have the right–and the responsibility–to monitor and guide their children’s reading. This means different things to different people.

mom daughter readingSome parents raise their kids to be “free range readers”—kids who are encouraged to read anything and everything they can get their hands on. Other parents set limits on the materials and subject matter that their kids are allowed to read—because of their child’s age/maturity, for philosophical, educational, religious, or moral reasons, or other factors.  And lots and lots of parents fall somewhere in between.

Part of parenting is knowing what your kids are doing–and to me, that includes being aware of the books they’re reading and putting limits and consequences in place that make sense for your family. And along with that, in my opinion, is helping your kids become responsible citizens by helping them learn to make smart reading choices. That’s about teaching kids to acknowledge new ideas that they encounter in books. It’s about helping kids evaluate what they read and understand that they may not always agree with it or believe that it’s true. And it’s about helping children learn to accept the existence of differing opinions and choices they read about without necessarily taking them on as their own.

Easy? Not by a long shot. But part of the responsibility of every parent is taking charge of raising their children in the manner that they see fit–whether or not they agree with or incorporate ideas such as the ones I’ve listed above.

The key words here are THEIR CHILDREN.

When parents try to control the books that can–and can’t–be found in public community libraries, public school libraries, and in public book stores, they’re trying to control the reading behaviors of ALL CHILDREN. By removing a book from public bookshelves, they’re taking away choices for all.  They are essentially trying to parent other parents’ children. And that, to me, is not OK.

To parents who have different ideas than my own about what THEIR KIDS can and can’t read, I say more power to you. Your house, your children—your rules.  I may not agree with you, but I will tirelessly defend your right to parent your kids in the way that’s right for you and your family. However–we should all expect that same respect in return. To the parents who want to enforce their own limits on the reading habits of children who are not members of their own family, I say hands off. End of story.

How about you? What are your thoughts? I’m interested in your feelings about this issue. Have you or your kids had any experiences with banned or challenged books? Please share!

Author: bookmammal

I love books, reading, writing, cooking, eating, reading while eating, and sharing thoughts about all of the above–plus a bit more! I usually post about topics relating to books and literacy during the week, and then participate in a variety of non-bookish memes on the weekend. Please feel free to join in! Some random things about me– –I have multiple bookshelves in every room of my home except the bathroom. They’re all filled to bursting. They help to make my house my home. –I have two cats who I love dearly, but who I definitely do NOT dress in human clothing. Ever. –I’ve never had a cavity. –I make a mean spaghetti sauce. –I’m a newcomer to yoga and I love it. –My day is not complete without a little chocolate.

18 thoughts on “Musing Monday–Banned Books Week 2014

  1. I totally agree with you – I don’t think (?) we have such a problem with this in the UK but maybe I’m just not aware of it but it is almost as if these parents think their children are going to flout the rules if the books are available to other children. Some of the banned books amaze me and I do wonder if those requesting that they are banned have even read them! I noticed on another blog that Fifty Shades of Grey is a banned book but surely (from what I’ve heard!) this is a book for adults so not age-appropriate is an odd label to give it and at the other end of the scale is Captain Underpants which I believe is one of the most banned books principally for encouraging unruly behaviour…. as you say, if a parent thinks this is the case they have the absolute right to explain and remove the book from their child, but to remove the enjoyment from all children – I say NO too.

  2. I’m not a fan of censorship in any way. Like you said, parent involvement is the key. It sometimes surprises me what has been challenged. Captain Underpants? Really?

    Hope you’ll visit me at

  3. Well said ! My parents never exactly “banned” anything but would occasionally just say “maybe in a few years time” and I think thats very fair. The rationale for banning in some cases sounds so shallow – why would someone want to ban To Kill a Mockingbird ?!?

  4. Amen, Amen, Amen. I didn’t restrict my children’s reading when young and it worked fine for me. I also did not try to push books down anyone else’s throat. I think that is the ways it should be. Last year my Science Fiction book club read Mothership and YA book. Everyone was surprised to learn that some parents had tried to ban the book. We though it was just a fun story to read and a great start to a series. The reason for trying to ban. Several of the teen are pregnant. It was just part of the plot. There were not sex scenes just the accomplished fact but some people objected. So if you don,t like and don’t want you child to read don’t buy or check out.

  5. I completely agree with you. If you don’t want your child to read a certain book for any particular reason, that’s the parent’s choice. But it crosses the line when you try to block every child’s access to a title, author, series, etc. because of your own personal beliefs. Luckily, I was brought up to be a free-range reader. Whenever I found out a book was “banned” it made me want to read it that much more!

    Wrote about my favorite banned books today over at my blog, I hope you’ll take a peek ❤

    • Very true–the whole “forbidden fruit” aspect can certainly encourage kids to make every effort to read something that parents don’t think is appropriate.

      • That’s why I feel that having a discussion as to why it is “inappropriate” or reading the novel with them and discussing it is a good approach. They are going to read/see/hear it anyway in school or on their own.

  6. You have articulated exactly what I think!

  7. I saw a few of the banned books on another blog and had no idea that Gatsby had been banned somewhere along the way…and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote…I loved both of those!

  8. Brava! AMB from ‘The Misfortune of Knowing’ has a similar post called ‘Stop Parenting my Children’ … I love love love all the sentiments that you’ve expressed here!

  9. Additionally, I was raised as a ‘free-range reader’ and it worked to keep me reading (and also keep my mind open to other’s thoughts and opinions) Granted, I was never a ‘sensitive’ child (meaning nightmares, etc. were never a real bother for me) so ‘Cujo’ at eleven didn’t scar me even a little bit. 🙂 I have the intent to raise my daughter this way … but she IS more sensitive (of course she’s only four.. so… Cujo clearly isn’t appropriate bedtime reading yet 😉 ) But unlike my parents I DO intend to have more discussions, etc. about books that she might read that I may not necessarily approve of.

    • April, your comment reminds me of a great Judy Blume quote–“Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.”

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