Hello, readers! I know it has been a while but it has taken some time to get back into the swing of things at school. But I wanted to drop in and talk about Banned Books Week. Every year a week is set aside to bring attention to attempts to ban books from our schools or public libraries. I can’t imagine a book being banned. It never came up at my high school. But I know I would be outraged if my library didn’t allow me to check out the books that interested me at the time, some of which were heavy in themes of sex, rape, drugs and violence. With the way the world is now, kids are facing these realities every day and they deserve to be given access to books that can help them cope.
But not everyone agrees. Enter a variety of parents, politicians and “concerned citizens” who have attempted over the years to have certain books removed from schools. Books like To Kill a Mockingbird, Native Son and The Lord of the Rings have all been banned or challenged in schools. I read and enjoyed all of these during my school years and I find it ridiculous that someone would keep such incredible novels out of the hands of kids.
Every year, the American Library Association gathers together the list of books that have been banned or challenged, as reported in the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom. It’s an intriguing list, and includes an explanation of what happened in each case. I thought for this Banned Books Week I would read a book that had been challenged and/or banned in 2013-2012. Here’s the entry on the book I’ll be reading this week:
Removed, via a district directive, from all Chicago, Ill. public schools (2013) due to ‘graphic illustrations and language’ and concerns about ‘developmental preparedness’ and ‘student readiness.’ Seventh- and eleventh-grade students study the graphic novel about the author’s experience growing up in Iran during the Iranian revolution as part of Chicago Public Schools’ Literacy Content Framework. As the news spread of the directive, students mobilized a media campaign in opposition to ‘banning a book that’s all about the freedom of speech.’ Students took to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, checked out all library copies of the book, wrote blogs, sent e-mails, wrote investigative articles for the student newspaper, contacted the author, staged protests, and appeared on local radio and television programs. Eventually, the school issued a letter telling high school principals to disregard the earlier order to pull the book.”
I am intrigued by this book because it explores a culture that is already intent on restricting free speech. But more than that, once students learned this book was being banned, they defended their own freedoms. And I’d love to read the book that led to that commendable action by a group of students. Sometimes we forget young people can teach us lessons.