Banned Books


Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was visit my local library and pick out a book to read. I would often times lean towards the books with the pretty covers or the enticing titles. I loved the freedom of browsing the wide variety of books and then selecting the best one for me. Reflecting back on my childhood, I never remember my parents telling me what books to check out or not check out. I felt was though I had full control over what I read.

Because I loved the library so much as a kid, I began volunteering at my local library in middle school and high school. One week I was asked if I could help with their Banned Book Week celebration. I did not know what that meant or what helping during the events would entail. Through volunteering and additional research, I have learned a lot about this event. Banned Books Week is an annual celebration with multiple events held usually in the month of September. These events celebrate the freedom to read while also bringing awareness to specific books that have been challenged to be removed or restricted in schools and libraries. The three most common reasons cited for challenging books were that they were sexually explicit, used of offensive language or were unsuited for any age group. The American Library Association (ALA) has compiled a list of frequently challenged books. However when looking at the specific books that had been challenged, I was surprised that many of these books were used in my high school’s curriculum. Books such as, The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger and, Beloved, by Toni Morrison were extensively covered in class during high school and were on the challenged list. After reading and learning more about banned book week, I began to ask myself, where these books too controversial to be taught in schools?

When my class read The Catcher in the Rye, my teacher began a discussion about whether or not this book was an appropriate book to read. The overwhelming majority of the students immediately exclaimed that they thought it was preposterous to ban a book in schools. That it infringed on their personal freedoms. Although I agreed that students should not be censored in what they should be allowed to read, I questioned whether or not this particular book was appropriate to read out loud in class. There was very strong language in this book and we often times read passages of the book out loud to provide evidence for our claims. When reading the book, I was not comfortable reading the majority of the passages in this book out loud because there were multiple curses words on the majority of the pages. But did my hesitation mean that the book should be completely banned?

The focus of banned book week is to raise awareness to the attempted censorship of books in schools and libraries. The ALA states in their Bill of Rights that, “Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents-and only parents- have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children-and only their children-to library resources.” This quote from the ALA really stuck with me and helped me come to a conclusion about banned books. I believe that the limiting of books to read should be up to the parents until the child is old enough to decide for themselves whether or not they believe they should read the book in question. I also believe that if a student or parent does have an adamant concern about a book being read in school that they should have the right to read a different book instead. Now I know that this is just my opinion and I would love to hear others views on this topic. Thanks!



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7 Responses to Banned Books

  1. haileynt1023 says:

    This is such an interesting post because I had no idea that there was such recognition for banned or controversial books. My opinion is similar to yours. I think that for awhile, the parents should have this discretion but there is something else to think about, I think. Schools have the responsibility of providing children with an education and parents are very different on how strict they are. Should schools limit a book that would provide children with a broader view of the world, and may be okay with some parents, but not others? This raises the question of how much discretion should a school have before it is taking away from their parenting.


  2. jmroney says:

    I appreciate your insightful reflection to your own experiences with banned books and discussing banned books in the context of school curriculum. In my experience, I have had many friends who were not allowed to read The Harry Potter series in grade school because of their parents personal and religious beliefs. This stemmed a debate within my childhood friend group of what books were appropriate for young readers, and who could decide what was appropriate. Like the Library Association, we determined that because parents made most of our decisions at the time, that they knew best and were qualified to tell us what to and what not to read. This is very different from the concept of banned books however, because banned books are limiting that choice for parents to make and making it political. Like you, my parents never limited my reading choices, and maybe because of this I feel that it is okay for most parents to decide what their children should read and not the school system. The complicated issue is when the school systems beliefs and the parents beliefs do not align, and a child’s education is compromised in the process.


  3. natercole says:

    I agree with you that certain books should be left until a certain age to read, however, jmroney delivers a concerning argument of when the beliefs of the schools and the beliefs of the parent do not align. Where would the minimum age to read these books in class be? What about parents who don’t want their children reading those books at all? Should we let them miss out on these “banned” books?

    I think that there is an easy solution. Expose students to knowledge of these books and their themes. If the books pique their interest, these students will seek these books outside of the classroom, which is in fact what teachers should be encouraging; that is, the active pursuit of reading by the student outside the classroom.


  4. marrisarose says:

    I really enjoyed this book and I too believe it is quite preposterous to ban books simply because I believe that schools are an essential place to foster conversation and community through the engagement of issues that are typically presented in these books. This ties in pretty nicely to the blog post I am writing about very soon so look out!


  5. abbymevans2015 says:

    First of all what kind of high school did you go to?? I am so surprised you read Beloved, amazing book but super hard to read. But I really enjoyed your post and your explanation about banned books was eye opening. I also really agree about your opinion that parents should be the only ones telling their children what they can and can’t read!


  6. Casper Rhay says:

    This was an interesting post! It’s definitely than the first time I heard about banned books (this past summer). I was talking with someone who had an obvious bias (I share the same haha), but the example she used was (I think) the Cat in the Hat. Apparently it, and a lot of books got banned because they featured talking animals. That was a no, no back in the day apparently. I personally find it silly to ban books though — values are always changing. I mean, you do the best you can with what you know, but there’s only so much that you can do. I just feel like age appropriateness is separate


  7. bgaudette says:

    The idea of censoring books in schools is interesting and something I have not thought about in a while. In middle school my school banned the “Golden Compass.” I went to Catholic school and the book was banned because of the authors atheist beliefs and possible inclusion of these beliefs in the novel. I was outraged by this because I should have been able to decide what I can read. A book cant force thoughts. Taking books out of schools takes away childrens rights


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