Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banned Books Week

I always love this week out of the year. It is the ALA's Banned Books Week. It's not that I love the fact that so many books have been challenged or banned, it's just that I love the focus on so many books, books that should be available to everyone, that happens because of Banned Books Week.

I actually bought one of the American Library Assn. READ posters a few years ago, when Alan Rickman posed with a banned/challenged book. As it turned out, the book he is holding is Catcher in the Rye, which I have read. I didn't like it - at all. I read it in high school because so many people were talking about it. It's not one that I will read again, but I'm glad I read it for myself. And more than that, I'm thankful that I had a mom who encouraged me to read all the time. I'm also thankful that I was able to check out that particular book from my high school library. I didn't have to buy it or search for it. It was there, on the shelf, waiting.

I understand the point of having some guidelines for elementary schools, but mostly because there are books that just aren't age appropriate for six to eleven year olds. There are plenty of books they could be reading that would be a better choice than something like Catcher in the Rye. But the important thing is that books are available for those who want to read them, without someone or some group deciding for the students, young or older, or for adults, that a book shouldn't even be available.

I started reading Harry Potter in 1999, when I read a news article that talked about the growing group of parents who wanted to ban the books. So, of course, I went to the book store that day and bought the first book. Before I even finished reading it, I had returned to buy the second and third books. I was hooked. But more than that, I could honestly say to someone who didn't like Harry Potter that they should read the books for themselves before deciding they weren't good for children to read. I never talked to anyone who disliked the books and wanted them banned or even restricted who had actually read any of them.

And that is what people lose sight of when they start talking of banning books. They fail to see that a book they don't like (usually haven't read), might have something that will make it just the right book for someone else. If they don't want to read a book, or don't want their children to read a book, that's a family issue and choice. But their choice shouldn't influence whether or not other families chose something different.

It's not just about Harry Potter though. I always enjoy looking at the list of banned or challenged books and seeing just how many I have read, or that at least I've heard about them and thought I would pick them up some day.

If you are looking for a list of books to read, the Banned Books list is an interesting place to start.