Want to write a banned book? Insert one, or more, or the following topics and you’re nearly guaranteed to get banned somewhere, by someone! Especially if you market your book toward kids.
(Note: I had planned on compiling this research myself, but the lovely and always prepared American Library Association did it for me!! Yay libraries!)
The top 3 reasons for a book to be banned are – Sex, Offensive Language and Violence. Coming in fourth, but probably comprising all three previous entries is – Being Unsuited to the Age Group. Which is an awfully fuzzy category if you ask me.
Here’s the graph that the ALA was kind enough to make:
If you look at this chart as a sort of map of American’s fears for their children it seems us neurotic parents are most afraid of:
1. Sex (Look, we all owe our lives to sex. Can’t we get over this already?)
2. Bad words (Is there really such a thing as a bad word? And if we get rid of all the bad words, won’t people just make up new ones?)
3. Violence (Yet it fills our television, opo culture and language.)
4. Witches (Seriously, look at where the occult shows up on this chart!)
5. Homosexuals (Please people, can’t we all just get along, or at least stay out of each other’s bedrooms?)
Parents are doing most of the book banning, well above any other group of individuals, parents initiate the most challenges to books. Because of that parental bias, schools are the institution most likely to ban a book. Schools, caving to the pressure of one parent at the expense of all the other students.
Is this why books on evolution no longer have to be banned by parents and schools? Publishers know it only takes one scared parent to get their book ousted from public view?
So what do we do about it? I think we need to start pushing back. I think we need to hold schools, libraries and even publishers accountable for the books they ban, as well as the thoughts and actions they ban as a knee-jerk response to a single parent, or a single incident.
I think schools should have to send home a note BEFORE they remove a book from the library to save one child’s sensitive eyes from its truthful depictions of life. I think parents should be notified, and allowed a voice, before these types of changes can occur. In fact, what I would like to see is for schools to be held so accountable that instead of sending a notice home telling us they might pull a challenged book, they instead send home a note letting parents know a book has been challenged, and why they WILL NOT be pulling it. Because children deserve access to information. And parents have a responsibility to discuss new information with their children, whether they agree with it or not.
I did not get my daughter’s preschool teacher fired when she talked about God to my daughter. Nor did I rant or rave at the school when children’s versions of Biblical books were read. Why? Because I am the parent, and it is my job to get my child ready to go out into the world on her own. It is my job to prepare her for all the things she will see and experience out there. Religion is one of those things. So, instead of freaking out and banning those books from her secular school, I accepted that we would be having some interesting conversations about myths and legends at dinner. We did. And we all learned from them.
It is time for us free speaking, free thinking, free acting parents to push back and demand the schools be held accountable in their mission of ALLOWING our children access to new thoughts, new ideas, new tools, new information, and new ways of doing things. If we truly want America to be at the top of the global economy then we need to allow our children the time and space to learn to think critically, to make decisions about what to read, what to believe and what to question. We need children to have a space to discover how to make good decisions while learning from bad ones without it becoming a matter for the courts.
We need to fight for our children’s rights to become intelligent, self-directed, self-motivated, capable adults who can think for themselves, make decisions, pay bills, delay gratification for their own greater good…
Reading banned books is one way to accomplish this. Not banning books in the first place is better.