This week's question is a really great one:
In honor of Banned Books Week, what is your favorite “banned or frequently challenged book”?
My response: Before I even looked at this year's list, I knew that one of my favorite books of all time, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, would be my response. I do have to say that one of the more recent editions includes some passages that I think Anne herself would be horrified to know were published for all the world to read - they were intended to be private and I'm sure she never wanted others to read them. But that does not take away from the value of this book in making the Holocaust accessible to young people. I went on to read a lot about the Holocaust because of this book, and to try to understand how it happened. It made me think and feel and sparked research - exactly what literature has the power to do!
And because I can never give one response to any question, I have to add that I also loved The Hunger Games, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Catcher in the Rye, Brave New World, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and Push, among other books on that list I have read. I'm surprised the Harry Potter books aren't on the list this year, I guess because the series is complete the people who like to ban books have moved on to other issues.
This week's question:
What book that hasn't been turned into a movie (yet) would you most like to see make it to the big screen, and who would you like cast as your favorite character?
My response: This is really difficult to answer. I'd love to see Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde made into a movie, but I have no idea who to cast!
This week's question:
Banned Books: How do you feel about the censorship of the freedom to read? Do you think the education system needs to be more strict on what children are exposed to in books?
My response: I believe in freedom of speech, and that extends to a freedom to read books that might have "controversial" content. In fact, I find that some of the books on the ALA challenged/banned list are banned because one person is upset by the book - but the problem is, each person's idea of what is upsetting is totally different. If we banned a book because it upset one person, there would be no books in the library at all. I am sure I could find something to be upset about in every single book I have ever read. Literally. It could be a word I don't like, a typo, an idea that I think is upsetting, whatever.
A good example of what I am talking about is the book Water for Elephants. I read this a couple years ago and I found that the animal cruelty in the book upset me quite a bit. (This did not, however, make me think that other people did not have the right to read this book and have their own opinions.) I accepted that it was part of the story and was probably (unfortunately) true to the time period in which the story is set, so I dealt with it. When I saw this book on the ALA list for this year, I assumed that animal cruelty would be mentioned as a reason for banning it, but no - it was the dreaded S-E-X, which is funny to me because I don't even remember that aspect of the book! So you see, every single book can be upsetting for someone. Banning books is not a solution, as there are always more books and more reasons to get upset about things.
As for schools, this is tricky, because once again, it's hard to choose materials that won't upset someone. I guess the schools just have to do the best they can to screen materials for age appropriateness if they are to be used in the classroom. Life is not all roses, and should not be portrayed that way, and kids these days are WAY more exposed to adult-level ideas through TV, movies, video games, etc., so "protecting" them from things like bad language is often a case of "too late." I say this with certainty because I was a classroom teacher for a couple years, and many of my seventh-grade students were watching "South Park" and every R-rated movie you could name (often on cable TV), and all with their parents' permission, I might add. So allowing kids to discuss a book that spoke to them, or that presents an idea that is uncomfortable, in a guided classroom setting is a good thing if done well.
I think very controversial issues might be better used in high school, where older teens could probably form more mature opinions, and using "controversial" books (such as Brave New World and some of the others on the list) might open students' eyes to issues in our society. If parents have a legitimate complaint, it should be listened to, but no school should allow one parent with an agenda to dictate what every student is allowed to read in the school.