Monday, September 28, 2009

To Read or Not to Read: That is MY Choice

In honor of Banned Books Week, I give you: my opinion. (Commence cheering.)

When I started library school, one of the very first things we went over was the American Library Association's views on Intellectual Freedom. We debated and talked over censorship and the freedom to read until it was pounded into our very beings. I was immediately won over by these ideas, which were actually quite new to me.

I am not an advocate for banning books, though there are books I deliberately avoid. I've never challenged a book's right to be on a library shelf. Or a bookstore shelf. But, sometimes I challenge the right for a book to be on my shelf. I think this is a side of the freedom to read debate that isn't often mentioned. I agree totally that no one else should be able to decide what my child should or should not read. I should not be able to decide what you or your child gets to read. But, this also means if I choose not to read certain books (or *gasp* to let my child read certain books) because I don't particularly like their content, that is my right.

I don't like a lot of books with certain types of content. That is one reason I put ratings (albeit subjective ones) for language, mature content, and violence on the books I review. I'm not encouraging people to run out and censor or attempt to ban books based on these ratings. I am trying to give people a heads up on the content of a book - either for their own reading or their child's. I also found when I went to library school, that being a religious conservative made me somewhat of a minority. Many of my colleagues are very outspoken liberals. (In fact, many people stereotype religious conservatives as the evil minions who attempt to ban books.) But, on banning and challenging books, I think we agree: it's wrong.

Anyway, last year I had a discussion with some of my reading friends about banned books lists - most of them mentioned that they specifically seek out the lists to read the books on them. Banned books really are some of the best books out there! For some lists, go to ALA's frequently challenged page - my personal favorite is the classics that are commonly challenged list; it has some of my all-time favorites on there.

I must, of course, link to other people's posts about Banned Books Week (Sept 26-Oct 3), so you can enjoy their fabulous thoughts:

Natasha of Maw Books Blog, who loves to read banned books. In fact, she thought far enough in advance to read them and post reviews during the week. I shall probably just link to ones I've read in the past. Hmph.

Angie of Angieville blogged about banned books on her shelf (and has more links than I could get my lazy bottom to find).

Nymeth at things mean a lot talks about her first clandestine reads - loved it!

So, go read a book - and enjoy that freedom!


  1. This is my first Banned Book Week as a blogger. In fact, if it weren't for my being a blogger, I wouldn't know about it. I found that list of challenged classics today and tomorrow I'm posting a challenge to myself to read the ones I haven't read. I'm also giving away a copy of Invisible Man on Wednesday.

    BTW-I totally agree with you about reserving my right NOT to read a book or to let my child read a book. I would also never support banning a book from a library.


  2. I agree with you. I don't think books should be banned from the library. It is up to each person (or in the child's case - the parent) to decide which books are appropriate.

  3. Very well thought out post, Melissa. I really enjoy hearing the viewpoint of someone who's gone through the training and education to be a librarian.

    Thanks for the link!

  4. Cara, I love that about the book blogging world - you hear about many more events than you normally would! Looking forward to your post.

    Amy, if you can't find it in the library, where can you find it? They are so important.

    Angiegirl, thanks. I enjoyed your post (obviously).

  5. I think parents/parenting is part of the problem. Heaven forbid we have to PAY ATTENTION to what our kids are reading. I mean honestly. Isn't that the school's job?

    (Totally sarcastic, there.)


  6. Britt, I think that is usually what instigates a challenge - a kid comes home with a book, the parent gets around to reading it (or rather, hears stuff about it) and then is outraged that a librarian or teacher would give it to their child! Seriously? If you're concerned, know what they read BEFORE they read it. And don't expect someone else to parent your child.

    *end rant*

  7. Yeah, I think it's more the "hears stuff about it". I don't think very many parents actually read what their kids are reading.

    (Isn't there a scene in Matilda, the movie at least, where the dad takes the book away because the title is Moby Dick? That's about how I figure a lot of these happen.)

  8. I hate it when people go entirely based on "what they heard" about a book. Is it that hard to pick it up?

    I haven't seen Matilda (I know, horrifying) but that idea makes me want to roll on the floor laughing!

  9. What I find amazing is that no one has every challenged Romeo and Juliet. Do you know how many sexual innuendo are in that play? Many, but most people probably don't understand it, so they don't confront it.

    I completely agree with you. I think that it's up to a parent to decide what their children read and not rely on a system to dictate it to us. It's called choice, just like you said :)

  10. Personally, I'd like to challenge Romeo and Juliet just for being a lame story, but that's just me. :D

  11. Tracie, it is a miracle Romeo and Juliet hasn't received more fire. I admit most of it probably went over my head in Jr. High!

    Britt, that just made me giggle. I have a lot of books I want to challenge based on their lameness! :)


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