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!