Monday, September 20, 2010

Banned Books Week 2010

I love September.  Back-to-School is great.  Autumn in New Hampshire is beautiful.  But that's not why I love September.  You see, dear readers, Banned Books Week is coming!!

Banned Books Week 2010
"Think for yourself, and let others do the same"
September 25-October 2

I still remember pinching my mom's copy of Mommie Dearest when I was a kid.  I knew she was done with it when it took its place in a pile next to her bed, where her old reading material tended to accumulate.  She finished it in a matter of days, so I knew she probably found it at least a decent read.

Perusing the back cover, I remember the need to find out more. I don't know if Mom ever knew I'd absconded with it--all I knew was that it wasn't aimed at me, and that I. Simply. Must. Read. It.

I stashed it under my pillow, and would sneak off for a fix whenever I could.  One day, home sick of from school, I tore through chapter after chapter.  Initially I was hooked by the peek into glamorous Hollywood life.  But throughout, I was dismayed and simultaneously fascinated by the abuse Christina Crawford described.  

There were sex scenes in the book, as I recall.  Christina got it on with a kid who worked in the barn at a boarding school she attended.  Perhaps there were other scenes, but I don't recall.  It didn't phase me that much.  I'd seen plenty of soap operas and compared notes on the playground.  I knew the basics, so reading about sex in a book didn't affect me one way or another.   I think, though, that was why I hid the book from Mom.  She and I had never discussed sex.  I knew I wasn't "supposed" to read the book.  And I know that added to the appeal.

My daughter is about the age I was when I squirreled that book away in my room. I sometimes find myself thinking about whether or not she should read something, and I remember my time with Mommie Dearest.  The bottom line is I just don't censor my kids' reading.  If it's in the house, they can read anything they get their hands on.  Truth be told, I think about what reading material I bring home in the first place

In fact, on a recent post, I was asked what I thought about kids reading Bridge to Terabithia.  I haven't read it, though Daisy has (and enjoyed it, heart-wrenching as she tells me it was), and as I explained in my reply, if the book had been too much for her, I think she would have put it down on her own.

I'm a big believer in the notion that, generally kids don't take on more than they can manage.  They don't ask questions that they aren't ready to hear answered.  I also believe that part of living in the United States means that we each have the right to access information--that's everyone, including kids. Which is one reason why this poster features prominently in my kitchen:
FREE PEOPLE READ FREELY Our Constitution protects the right of all individuals including children and teenagers, to open access to information.  Celebrate Your Freedom to Read.

Now, to the best of my knowledge, Mommie Dearest was never banned or challenged.  If it were laying around the house today, I probably would let Daisy read it if she were so inclined.  She really doesn't seem to have an interest in the things I read, though.

Unbenownst to her, she has already read some books that have been banned or challenged.  The only reason she doesn't know it is because it hasn't come up--she's always been free to read what she wants.  It's time to have that conversation.  She sees that poster every day while she eats breakfast, but we've never really talked about it. 

Why are books challenged and/or banned?  The American Library Association (ALA)provides a brief description of the reasons that several classics were challenged in one way or another over the years.  Some challenges have been ongoing since the initial publication, while others haven't been challenged in years.  Newer titles are often banned for similar reasons.

In honor of Banned books week, I'm going to talk to my kids about our poster, and about our family's approach to information and reading.  I'll share with them some of the titles they've already enjoyed that have been challenged or banned.  Knowing that Captain Underpants and Junie B. Jones have been challenged will likely make them laugh (I did).  Hopefully, it will also make them want to read even more.

If you are interested in acknowledging Banned Books Week, the ALA has some suggestions.  They also have a page directing you to various events planned for Banned Books Week, throughout the U.S.  The list is updated regularly, so check and see if there's anything going on in your community or at the local library.  If you are a follower of YA blogs, or saw Sassymonkey's BlogHer post, you'll already know about the issue with Speak.  If not, go read about the author's concern about potential banning of her work--and how we can help.  This is another constructive way to bring attention to Banned Books Week.

There are other bloggers to check out during Banned Books Week, too:
Jen, from Laughing at Chaos is already planning...she says, "I’m thinking about getting a Banned Books Week tree and decorating it with Banned Books. I’m might send out Banned Books Week cards, with a letter describing all the Banned Books I’ve read this year. I’m going to read Huck Finn with the boys."
Jen Bigheart writes a blog entitled, I Read Banned BooksDo not miss the video at the end of her entry.
Cailin, of A Hidden Haven is hosting a giveaway of Speak--go throw your hat in the ring for a copy.
Would you believe that Walter the Farting Dog has been challenged?  Yup...and Buried in Books writes about it.  Now, I'm not a personal fan of the book--I can only take so much farting, and I wasn't thrilled when my hub brought it home years ago.  But to challenge it?  As in, no one else should read it, either?  Ridiculous.
I've spent some time looking through  various lists of Banned Books, and thought I'd share just five that I've enjoyed over the years: 
Harry Potter (pick one...they've all been challenged) by J.K. Rowling (We've read some of them as a family)
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (I read this when I was in middle school)
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (recommended by my stepdaughter)
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (I know, big surprise, right?)
What's Happening to my Body? by Linda & Area Madaras (Steph's read this one, too)

Now, tell me yours:  What Banned Books have you enjoyed?  Having shared my circa '79 Mommie Dearest story with you, it's no longer a secret that I'm a sucker for illicit reading.  I want to beef up my "to-read" list--tell me what I should add to it!

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