Friday, September 30, 2016

Banned Books...Children's Edition!

September is the month Libraries go CRAZY over Banned Books! I have decided to do a 3 part BEST OF BANNED BOOKS to remind everyone of the small mindedness of folks the world over. This here is my Children's Edition.

As a parent (and we'll go back to when my children were little here), I believe it is up to me and my children to decide what they can read. I don't think anyone else should make that decision for me. Does this mean I would want my 9 year old to read Fifty Shades of Grey? That is an extreme book choice and the answer is of course not. But that is for me to decide, and a lot of factors would go into the decision. Let's talk Twilight instead...or Captain Underpants. I would factor in my child's reading level, their maturity, why they are interested in a title, and whether I would be willing to read it before or simultaneously so that we could have meaningful discussion about the topics included in the book.

This is a great opportunity to talk to your children about serious, sensitive and sometimes embarrassing topics in a not too preachy manner. For instance, you can both read a book where bullying is happening, and can then talk about your child's thoughts on bullying, if it's ever happened to them, what they would do if they saw someone being bullied, etc. Some children have a hard time talking about something going on with them, but will gladly have a conversation involving the character in a beloved book.

So, here's my Top 10 Banned and Challenged Kids Books:

 The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey

Okay, this one's an easy target. I remember the first time my son brought this book home...and being disappointed initially. We went from Harry Potter to Captain Underpants, so I'm sure you can understand my perplexed feelings. But it's just a silly that created a lot of readers out of reluctant boys. Captain Underpants beat out Fifty Shades of Grey for most banned or challenged book of 2012, if you can believe it. It was banned for offensive language (perhaps calling someone old, or referencing underwear), partial nudity (underwear and a diaper), violence (whacking evil robots on the head) and misbehavior (pranks). 
 Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

This was my all time favorite book for a while in elementary school. I even carried a notebook around to spy on my friends, but was too lazy to keep it up for too long, and I don't remember anyone doing anything interesting enough to warrant it. When my daughter was in elementary school I told her about it. She read it, and did the same...carried around her notebook writing about what people were doing. Unsurprisingly, it was banned for setting a bad example for children. I just find it hilarious actually. There are consequences folks...concrete consequences for Harriet. 

 Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

I don't remember reading this one as a kid, but I did read it with my daughter when she was in elementary school. She LOVED Gary Paulsen's books. She felt for them how I felt for My Side of the Mountain...a book neither of my children liked as much as I did. It is basically just another classic survival book. It was banned for "sexual content, violence and horror". Okay, the violence part I guess I get, but I really think they must've been reading a different book for the sexual content jibe. 

 How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

I read this one a very long time ago, and my memory has been marred by the fairly recent movie version. It is a book about a kid having to eat worms because of a bet. It is a silly book, and was banned because "eating worms is gross and easily imitated". I'm just going to say that I doubt your child will really eat worms having read this book...and if they do it will probably just be one.

 Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House in the Big Woods was banned for "promoting racial epithets and fueling the fire of racism". We have talked a lot about this subject at the library recently. Books that came out in a certain time period may contain words that are no long acceptable in our modern society. Does that mean they are bad books? No. Should you probably have a discussion with your children about the outdated speech, or racially motivated scenes, and point out the differences from then to now? Of course. This is where being actively involved in your children's reading lives comes into play. It can be a real teaching moment. The Little House series contains a lot more excitement than a lot of people remember, and the books are definitely less sugary-sweet than the t.v. show. 

 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I have always loved Little Women. I adored the book as a child, and still have the set of Louisa May Alcott books that my mom gave me. I loved Jo and her writing the best. Yes, the writing is old fashioned, and the marital ideals also, but I really do think it has a place in literature. It was banned for "severe punishment of a feminist character". I think that in it's day it was quite progressive in it's portrayal of women as independent creatures, but now is considered hopelessly out of date because Jo marries an older man, etc. Once again, it is really a testament to the changes in society...which makes for great conversation.

 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

It has been a very long time since I've read this book, but it was banned for "racial bias". Honestly, if my memory serves me correct, this is a great book for kids to get a taste of racism in the south during the 1930's. It is told from the perspective of a 9 year old, and she naively doesn't realize that her skin color has anything to do with her family's fight to keep their land. I believe there is a definitely place for books like this. 

 Superfudge by Judy Blume

I am pretty sure that all of Judy Blume's books have been banned or challenged at one point in time or another, but I grew up loving them. This one has the kids being a little older, so there are chapters talking about Santa and where babies come from...from the perspective of 6th graders and not little beware and be prepared to have a few talks afterwards. The "Fudge" characters grew up with me...and I enjoyed them all the way through. It was banned for "profane, immoral and offensive content". 

 Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

I have always been a big fan of Shel Silverstein. I thought these poems were HILARIOUS when I was little. From the boa constrictor to skipping school, I loved them all. They were so silly, and they made me laugh. They showed me that poetry could be funny. Did I think I should use it as a guide for my life? Was I planning on eating a baby, or starving myself to death? Heck no. Kids are a lot smarter than some adults think they are. It was banned for "undermining parental, school and religious authority". The funny thing about this one is it was challenged in the town I currently live, in 1986. 

Are You There God? It's Me Marget by Judy Blume

This is the book that introduced censorship to me at a young age. In my elementary school library we had a couple copies of this book, and only one didn't have pages filled with black markered bits. That was of course the copy we all fought to check out. I've often wondered if it would've been as popular if they hadn't brought to our attention that there were passages they felt unfit for our consumption? I liked this book as a kid, although it was already quite outdated in regards to periods and pads, etc. I remember asking my mom what this "belt" contraption was that the main character kept fretting over. As someone who went through puberty at a very young age, I was grateful for books of this nature in my library. Yes, I had an older sister that I could talk to about "female" things, but sometimes it's more fun to figure them out on your own. The book was banned and censored for "frank treatment of adolescent sexuality and religion". 

So there you have very long list of banned or challenged children's books. I hope I haven't sounded too preachy, as that's not my intent. I really just believe in parents having the final say when it comes to what their children are reading. And I feel so passionately about reading and talking with children, and giving them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to intellectually separating fact from fiction.

Let me know what your thoughts are on censorship and books. Did you like any of these books as a kid? Did you let your children read them? Do you read along with your kids? Tell me your thoughts either in the comments here or over on my Facebook page

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