A little bit about books, a little bit about life.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Book Banning, II

I guess I should have clarified yesterday....I don't agree with book banning, but age appropriateness is okay. So is parental "censorship". (even tho I hate that word...but I preface it with "parental" ) I just don't want you telling me what "I" can read. And I won't be telling you what "you" should read.
It gets a bit complicated I guess.
Here are three comments/opinions from Friday Friends (of the originals), one is my sister in law, Meghan. She is the mother of two elementary school children. And Traci, my friend who works in a school district Media Center. And my friend Kevin, who worked beside me as the computer teacher in the computer lab when I was the librarian at the Grammar School.

from Meghan:
Funny you mention book banning... I have been kinda worried about the books my kids are reading! Not worried...but ... well, Devin is into the Junie B Jones books..... these are IMMENSELY popular with the kids and ALL the 1st grade TEACHERS read them to the kids and they even go see the LIVE show at the Chabot theater... but we were reading it last night and I kept having to say 'you know that's not ok to do or say' when Junie would call someone stupid or be rude to her teacher... and correcting Junie's grammar as it is terrible... so I AM CENSORING!! I don't know, I guess Ramona books were kinda like that as she was a sassy spitfire... but this seems like it could be a bad influence in a kid susceptible to bad behavior, ya know? And Nate, who is a struggling reader.... his teacher does not believe in giving homework just for the sake of doing another worksheet at home (LOVE her) so asks that the kids read for 30-40 minutes a night...we bought a ton of books to help him get interested... then were recommended Diary of A Wimpy Kid.... which he loves!!! but there are cartoons depicting things that aren't 'appropriate'...calling people morons and such. We sometimes swear in front of our kids, and say silly things but we KNOW our kids .... there is no way they would say anything like that in school... but most 6 or 8 year olds (who are not as exceptional as my kids, lol) would tend to repeat this stuff! what do you think?
I too used to sneak books from my moms closet and read what I was forbidden to... Wifey by Judy Blume (I HAD read all her others! why not this??) and Erica Jung come to mind!

from Traci: I agree with the banning, but I do have question for you?
How do you feel about books that give misinformation (outdated or just morally wrong)to young people. Do you still put the book on the shelf or pull it???

from Kevin:
My first banned book was Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. It was also a banned movie, but the book was one of several the Montrose librarian caught me with in the stacks. I can also remember a big push to ban "Catcher in the Rye" and burning of writing was very popular.
When I was a senior, at the second new high school I attended, I was in the journalism class. I wrote a column about freedom, of expression, and got the whole school newspaper burned.
Lois Lowry is one of the many dynamic writers Debbie introduced me to, when she was the Grammar School librarian in the last century. Just the other night, I watched a movie with the same theme: "Freedom Writers".

So... (me again) what is the answer?
I cant' even remember why Catcher in the Rye was banned. Times have changed, haven't they?

"morals" are subjective, so what I might find offensive, you might not, and so forth. And that's what I don't like about any person or group of people deciding what "I" can read. I want to decide for myself what I can read. And hopefully the "age appropriateness" can kind of weed out the unlawful and "wrong" books for the kids. I don't have a "pat" answer for that question. I don't want any political, religious, or social group telling me what is right or wrong to read, or what is right or wrong for my children or grandchildren read. I don't want educators or community leaders telling me so either.
And, I, in turn will not censor their books. Or their children's books.
It's really a lot more complicated than just a blanket statement. But I would still say I am against the banning of books...any books.

"outdated" ....but it's so much fun to find old books that say things like "Mommy stays home and cleans the house while Daddy goes to work" LOL...too funny. Outdated in non-fiction, of course, but in fiction? How can you be outdated?

And Holy Cow, I've never read the Junie B. Jones books (now you know I'll have to), but I was never a huge fan of serial books until a few years ago and now I'm into mysteries with returning characters.
That too is a complicated situation.
Why is it that some very popular authors have to use means like that? I don't like that, but I wouldn't "ban" it. It's hard sometimes to not cross the line from spunky to obnoxious when writing about a character, I guess.
As a parent I think the way you live your life and let your views be known, your children will pick up on. It's really hard when all the teachers love the books and use them. And in conversation if you voiced your concerns about them, you could be labeled as a CENSURER!! OMG!! Who knew Meghan was a censor. LOL

BUT ... you are still reading them to your kids and having "conversations" over them and about them. YAY!! You didn't ban them or go picket against them. You have a concern as a parent.

I did appreciate those concerns...having to address or look at things from a different view point.... they are things to think about.

List of a few: (from the Forbidden Library dot com)

The Call of the Wild. Jack London. Ace; Bantam; Grosset; Macmillan; NAL; Penguin; Pocket Bks.; Raintree; Tempo. Banned in Italy (1929), Yugoslavia (1929), and burned in Nazi bonfires (1932). Who knew Nazis didn't like sled dogs?

Catcher in the Rye. J.D. Salinger. Published in 1951, this immediate best seller almost simultaneously became a popular target of censorship. A 1991-92 study by the People for the American Way found that the novel was among those most likely to be censored based on the fact that it is "anti-Christian." Challenged by Concerned Citizens of Florida who wanted the book removed from a high school library (1991) in Leesburg, Florida due to "profanity, reference to suicide, vulgarity, disrespect, and anti-Christian sentiments." They were unsucessful: a review committee voted unanimously to retain the book.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl. Bantam; Knopf; Penguin. Removed from a locked reference collection at the Boulder, Colo. Public Library (1988), where it had been placed because the librarian thought the book espoused a poor philosophy of life.

A Doll's House. Henrik Ibsen. Penguin. Four members of the Alabama State Textbook Committee (1983)--presumably the same who objected to The Diary of Anne Frank --called for the rejection of this work because it propagates feminist views.

The Egypt Game. Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Dell; Macmillan. This award-winning novel was challenged in the Richardson, Tex. schools (1995) because it shows children in dangerous situations, condones trespassing and lying to parents and ostensibly teaches about the occult. The school board declined to ban this book, but did decide that parents should be notified when it is used in class.

The Happy Prince and Other Stories. Oscar Wilde. Penguin. Challenged at the Springfield, Oreg. Public Library (1988) because the stories were "distressing and morbid."

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Dee Brown. Holt. Removed in Wild Rose, Wis. (1974) by a district administrator for being "slanted." The administrator also said "if there's a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not eliminate it."

The Lorax. Dr. Seuss. Random. Challenged in the Laytonville, Calif. Unified School District (1989) because it "criminalizes the foresting industry." Isn't that the de-foresting industry?

My Friend Flicka. Mary O'Hara. Harper; Lippincott. Removed from fifth and sixth grade optional reading lists in Clay County, Fla. schools (1990) because the book uses the word "bitch" to refer to a female dog, as well as the word "damn."

Where's Waldo? Martin Handford. Little. Challenged at the Public Libraries of Saginaw, Mich. (1989), Removed from the Springs Public School library in East Hampton, N.Y. (1993) because there is a tiny drawing of a woman lying on the beach wearing a bikini bottom but no top. Yes, but did they find Waldo?

A Wrinkle In Time. Madeleine L'Engle. Dell. Challenged at the Polk City, Fla. Elementary School (1985) by a parent who believed that the story promotes witchcraft, crystal balls, and demons. Challenged in the Anniston Ala. schools (1990). The complainant objected to the book's listing the name of Jesus Christ together with the names of great artists, philosophers, scientists, and religious leaders when referring to those who defend earth against evil. Got it. Let's cross Jesus off that list, shall we?

I could go on, but I won't. I will say "AARGHGH!" before I leave tho. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Madeleine L'Engle, who was the writer in residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC, until she died last year.

Okay, that's it. That's my blog for today. :~)

PS I think my niece and nephew are exceptional too!!


Smilingsal said...

As for elementary teacher's choice of reading material: some teachers are young, single people who don't use the best judgment when making a selection. (I know that some young, single people have sound judgment; I am making a general statement.)

Parents should be involved.

Jen said...

This is such a great topic! I have to say that I completely agree with your comment about things that are "morally" right or wrong. In our country, we simply can't decide that for other people. If it isn't against our laws, then it isn't your right to dictate for others. I think the answer to all of these problems isn't banning books, it's good parenting. If parents are doing a good job, they are instilling the values in their children that THEY deem appropriate. If they are doing that, then when the children read a book (whether their parents know about it or not) they can identify what is "right" and what is "wrong."