Today starts the American Library Associations Banned Books Week. I just read through the ALA website and their pages about banned books. I love that they promote everyone's right to free speech and everyone's right to read what they want to read.
Looking at the list for challenged or banned books in 2009-2010 I recognize that there are 9 books on there that I have read already and 2 that are actually on my to-be-read pile and right here in my house already! I pretty vividly remember reading all of the nine books, and I do have to say that I can see how they could be controversial. Two of them I read in school and the others I have read since being a teacher/mother. As a teacher I'm always thinking about which of my students would enjoy a book I have read, and some of these I would definitely have to think carefully about who I would recommend them to, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend them to the right student who I think would be mature enough to read, understand, and interpret the book.
Some of you have joined the #speakloudly conversation on Twitter after Laurie Halse Anderson's book Speak was characterized as filthy and immoral. Here's what she had to say about it: "This guy thinks SPEAK is pornography." I didn't post my own response right away, just because it's hard for me to think straight when something so insane happens. There are two rape scenes in Speak and the book is an intense book because of what Melinda (the main character) deals with when she is raped. I think it is an important book for young adults to read about what she is going through whether they identify with it in any way or are just gaining perspective. This is a book that I have recommended to certain students and I always explain that it's a serious book and make sure to talk to them about what they read, mainly because I want them to understand the seriousness of the book and the gravity of it's message but also because Anderson leaves a lot for a reader to infer and I want to make sure the student gets what the book is about. I believe so many people are outraged by this particular banning because the accusation is really off-base - and I know that because I read the whole book.
Speak and other challenged or banned books need people standing up for them and their worth in schools and libraries. I hope that everyone out there is reading, but I truly wish that every teacher and parent out there is at least reading what their students or kids are reading. Had I not read any of these banned books in this post, I wouldn't be qualified to make a case for them and their relevance and importance in society. Since I have, I know what they are about and I know I would recommend any of them if I thought they were a fit for one of my students or friends. For the books I haven't read, I can't say I would be interested in reading all of them, but that doesn't mean I'm going to stand in the way of someone who is interested in them.
I wish I could be part of the Chicago Banned Books Week Read-Out! Even though I can't actually be there, I'm going to make sure I sit down and read between noon and 2:00 p.m. to show my support. Here are the two books I'll be reading this week in honor of Banned Books Week:
Stand up against book banning:
read one of the books on the challenged or banned books lists,
buy them, check them out, share them!