Sunday, September 30, 2012

Let Them Read Books!

I'm a huge fan of everyone being free to read what they want to read when they want to read it!

"Read what you want to read!"
-Jen Vincent

Yesterday, Peanut and I hung out with Dave Roman and I told him that I will never forget his response to anyone who says that graphic novels or comics isn't reading:

"Not reading is not reading."
-Dave Roman, Astronaut Academy, Teen Boat

To me, if a child is not reading, that's when a parent or teacher should be worried. I do totally understand that some books might be too mature for kids and parents should know enough about what kids are reading to help guide their child's reading, but when it comes to letting kids read what they want to read after that, I say: Yes! Let there be reading!

It's frustrating to me that anyone thinks it's okay to challenge or ban books, especially when I read the books and it seems obvious that the people challenging/banning it must not have read the entire book if they want to challenge or ban it. I just wish people would be more open-minded and take on the perspective of books being ways to start good and worthwhile discussions instead of books being a way to taint a child's mind. 

I pride myself on being a positive person so I have to stop dwelling on these Negative Nancys when it comes to some books. Let's just get on with it. Here are the frequently challenged books of the 21st century from the ALA website, featuring the top ten challenged books in 2011.
The number one banned book last year was ttyl by the-one-and-completely-awesome Lauren Myracle. I adore her and her ability and continuous desire to write strong girl characters who deal with true-to-life experiences that girl readers can completely relate to. If I had a daughter, I would be buying her every Lauren Myracle book as she grew into them. Lauren Myracle picks up where Judy Blume left off  with Are You There, God? It's Me Margaret for previous generations. I truly believe that a reader being able to connect with a book and to be able to not feel so isolated in his or her feelings (especially when it comes to puberty and everything that goes with it) is so powerful. What are books if not ways to learn about ourselves and others?

Here's what Lauren Myracle had to say about her books being banned in an interview from 2010:
In April, Lauren was interviewed about her books topping the 2011 list. Here's part of her interview:

"I remember going to a library once in Ohio. They had invited me, telling me, 'We’d love to have you talk here.' But when I got there, a librarian said, 'We don’t have your dirty books on display here.' I didn’t want to get into a fight, but I thought, 'You should serve your population—kids have different needs.' I asked if they had a book called Thirteen Reasons Why, about a girl who commits suicide. She said, 'Heavens no! It’s pro-suicide.' But it’s the opposite. The book shows how horrible it is for everyone when you take your life.
Kids are smart. Knowledge is power. Let them figure things out. Don’t turn into that grown-up who they won’t come to."
Bottom line: offer books to kids. Books have to be available to kids. Who is anyone to not make a book available to a student (except a parent for their own child when appropriate)? It's not cool for a library to not have a book available because of it being banned or challenged. It's not cool for a bookstore or book fair to not have a book available because of it being banned or challenged - or even for the potential possibility that it might be banned or challenged. That's just sad.
In April, Lauren also wrote a follow-up post to the ALA's list being published. I love her ability to look at her books being banned in such an objective way. In this article she talks about her latest book Shine. Shine is an amazingly written book that discusses homophobia and gay-bashing. It's a close examination of how people treat other people and how judgments people make influence how others feel. After reading October Mourning by Leslea Newman, published last week, I thought immediately of Shine because they can be paired so well together. Shine is a fictional novel but pairing it with October Mourning can help readers recognize how realistic the issues in Shine actually are. Both of these are perfect books for young adults. When I think of reaching younger readers and sharing this message of compassion and acceptance of all, I think of See You At Harry's by Jo Knowles and Drama by Raina Telgemeier. Both of these books have gay characters and address gay issues without that being the central focus of the book. I hope all of these books make their way into readers hands!

If you want to read what I had to say about Banned Books Week in 2010, you can read about it here
What are some of your favorite books that are on 2011's banned book list or previous lists?

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