Do I get annoyed every time I read a banned books list? Yes. For me it is particularly frustrating to see banned and challenged children’s books. Several of my favorites from childhood have showed up on various lists. These books all impacted me as a child, taught me lessons and helped me grow. The effect continued to resonate through adulthood as they stuck with me in one way or another.
One of these is Charlotte’s Web – just wow. Why this would be banned is just crazy IMO, but it was indeed banned in Kansas in 2006 on religious grounds because the animal characters talk (parents challenging the book thought that only humans should be able to speak). What?! As a child I just adored the way they spoke and were “humanized.” Anthropomorphism has been present in so many texts throughout history so why single out Charlotte’s Web? Take it from someone who is a total arachnophobe (just ask anyone in my family), this book makes spiders lovable. Kudos to E. B. White, (the same with Stuart Little, as mice are often feared too). And there are many positive lessons about themes such as friendship, love, diversity and discrimination.
This is what is so amazing about books – they make us think! There might be things that are not so rosy, make us squeamish or scared. But this can be just as helpful as happy endings. As I mentioned in a previous post, these types of messages can be useful in speaking with our children about life events, historical events and societal impacts. Knowledge is power. Adults should be book screeners, not book banners.
But then today I saw an article in Publishers Weekly about how a New PEN America Report Finds 33% Jump in School Book Bans. As the article points out about the report, “most instances of book bans affect young adult books, middle grade books, chapter books, or picture books—books specifically written and selected for younger audiences.” This just should not be. Reading is a freedom – isn’t that one of America’s foundations?
More of my favorite children’s and young adult books that have been banned or challenged: