Sunday, October 7, 2012

Challenged Reading

As Banned Books Week draws to a close, I encourage everyone to add some banned books to their shelves---if you don't have a lot of them on there already.

We are fortunate that we live in a country that offers protection for free speech. I realize that not everyone is happy with the way that right is exercised or the way the law is interpreted at times, but at least attempts to ban these books do not remove them from print completely. However, it is important to acknowledge that access to these books is being threatened every day, and the people these limits affect the most are children from families that do not have the means to buy these books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or their local book seller. Challenges to books can remove them from school libraries, curricula, and even local libraries.

The most disturbing piece of the debate over challenged and banned books is that the official reasons books are challenged or banned rarely has anything to do with the real reasons for banning or challenging it. For example, reasons cited for banning or challenging The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins are: "anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence" according to the American Library Association's website. Yes, The Hunger Games is violent and the culture depicted in the novel is inhumane and insensitive. I have no idea where the occult or satanic bit comes from or the anti-ethnic or anti-family. Those issues seem to just prove a couple of things I've long suspected about avid book challengers: 1. they haven't read the book and 2. they're the ones with the nasty thoughts, not the authors.

If parents were truly trying to protect their children from violent images or frightening literature, The Bible would be banned as well, but I don't see that happening any time soon. The Bible also includes references to homosexuality, challenges to the conventional image of family, racism, and plenty of other topics that PTAs and other organizations find objectionable.

I would much rather live in a society where children may ask a few awkward questions than one that makes discussion taboo.