Monday, November 3, 2008

Banning Books

In my sophomore English class we read a wide variety of material, both fiction and non-fiction. The first novel we read each year is Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. I always have to lay a little groundwork before reading and do some preparation. The story is classic and timeless and, in the end, quite positive. The whole theme of the novel is to not judge someone before you know all the facts. As Atticus says, you have to put yourself in their skin and walk around in it. Atticus was all about getting Tom Robinson judged fairly. I also love all the symbolism in the novel and love to see the "lightbulbs" go off when the kids start thinking about that snowman as more than just a snowman, or the rabid dog, the dog with a "disease" as more than just a mad dog.

By the end of the novel, the kids have gotten so far past Mr. Ewell's hate and anger and profane name-calling that they "get" the message Atticus is selling and end up loving the novel.

Below is the list of books on the list most requested to be banned from school libraries. This just blows my mind. This list almost always includes all the Harry Potter books and usually Of Mice and Men. How many of them have YOU read?!
Top 10 requests
American Library Association officials say they know of 420 requests to remove books from schools and libraries in 2007. Here are the top 10, along with the reasons cited.

1. "And Tango Makes Three" by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. Reasons: anti-ethnic, sexism, homosexuality, anti-family, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group.
2. "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier. Reasons: sexually explicit, offensive language, violence.
3. "Olive's Ocean" by Kevin Henkes. Reasons: sexually explicit, offensive language.
4. "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman. Reasons: religious viewpoint.
5. "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain. Reasons: racism.
6. "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker. Reasons: homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language.
7. "TTYL" by Lauren Myracle. Reasons: sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuitable for age group.
8. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou. Reasons: sexually explicit.
9. "It's Perfectly Normal" by Robie Harris. Reasons: sex education, sexually explicit.
10. "The Perks of Being A Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky. Reasons: homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuitable for age group.

Knowing my students, just looking at this list, they'd make a beeline for the library just to get their hands on one of these! Nothing makes a teenager want to do something more than telling them they can't or that it is bad for them!


Mary Frances Archer said...

I've read 5, 6 and 8.

It's amazing to me that when something freaks people out - their answer is to destroy it, hide it, squash it. Giving children or people no credit for realizing words are written by people affected by their culture and time period and experience.

When I first read Angelou - I was touched. By the time I finished the college class that introduced me to it - I vowed never to read a Toni Morrison book again (I still enjoy Maya Angelou poetry). Basically I got sick of the african american female story as shown to me in that class b/c unfortunately, the list I was exposed to all sounded the same so I was convinced "i know that story".

I don't read nearly as many new novels as I wish I did. I'm sort of into a non-fiction stage right now. Self education, etc. Started when I got pregnant and reading more child development books.

Anyway - it's awesome that you know your students reactions would be to go read them - that's a great sign if you ask me. ;)

Mary Frances Archer said...

oh - and when i was in the 7th grade - the teacher let me read "Are you there God, it's me Margaret" out loud by Judy Blume to the entire class and the class voted for me to read the whole thing (rather than us taking turns) b/c I had the best story telling skills. can you even imagine them letting a 7th grader read a book out loud to the class daily today about a girl starting her period? why does it seem we are going backwards?

Pat Austin Becker said...

I can't remember the Maya Angelou book right now that I most liked; it's the one where she was in Africa and had Guy with her; he'd been in this accident and she talks about sitting with him in the hospital not knowing if he was going to die. About how she nursed him back... it was wonderful and very moving.