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Book Discussions > Thoughts on censorship

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message 1: by Papaphilly (new)

Papaphilly | 6 comments During banned book week I was perusing the challenged/banned books at the American Library Association website. I was shocked to find out how many are there and how they end up on a list. The vast majority of these challenged books are from elementary and high school.

My question is this: Assuming that those that challenge books are both honest and serious in their intentions, is there a reason to remove a book from school reading lists?

I know I am throwing red meat to the lions here, but before you answer, think about this: do parents have a right to limit what their children see at school and is there such a thing as age appropriate books?

The reason I ask is when my son was in fourth grade he read Flags of Our Fathers. He was questioned by his teacher at the time and it just so happened that I had a meet the teacher night that night. it was brought up that he had the book and she was questioning who he received the book from. I explained that I gave it to him and if she has any questions about the books he is reading, she can assume I gave it to him or she can call me and ask. I then asked her what the problem was with the book and was told that she thought it was to old for him and he wouldn't understand what it was really about. I asked her did she talk to him about the book and she replied no. I told her that he understood and that did catch me off guard given his age. I then explained that he wanted to read the book and that's why I gave it to him.

In all fairness to his teacher, she was not nasty or pushy and was very concerned that it was out of his league. She never challenged him again, but then it was made abundantly clear that I would not be a happy camper if she kept up her challenges.

What did happen was that I have ever since wondered what is an age appropriate book and when does it cross into censorship, if it does. It also made me wonder if a parent can take opposite tact from me and demand their child not read a book they find offensive. I assume that they are acting in their belief that they are doing the best for their child be not exposing them to ideas they do not find appropriate.

A couple of caveats. I am not talking about pornography because that truly has no place in school. I am also not talking about religious texts except as a comparative religion class meaning this is the religion in question and this is what they believe. I am not talking about proselytization because in my mind that has no place in schools either. I am also only talking about public school because private school has its own set of rules you must agree to before you enter the school. Finally, i have posted this thread on other groups I joined and I am every bit as interested in your thoughts as others.

One last note, my hat off to the ALA for fighting the good fight. When you think of librarians, do you think of them as anything else other than quiet unassuming individuals. After reading the ALA site, they are really sword and shield wielding heroes of freedom of press. This group really is amazing with their fighting the good fight.

What say you?


message 2: by Tamara (last edited Jan 29, 2015 07:57PM) (new)

Tamara Interesting topic. Personally I think too many parents are so invested in protecting the "innocence" of their children that they don't allow them opportunities to grow. Age appropriate is child dependent. I have two children there are big differences in what I encouraged them to read. One is very literal and took a while to develop a good understanding of make believe. Urban fantasy, even for her age level, would've been a bad idea. The other is very empathetic, historical fiction, biography or history that was heavy on "man's inhumanity to man" themes wasn't a good idea for her. Fortunately I read a great deal and have friends who also read considerably or are librarians. I could generally find alternatives. There are very few books I told them nope you can't read that. There are ones that I said try it and let me know how you do.

I dislike the "age appropriate" label. There's writing that has language that is above an average reading level (not every child is average) and concepts that are considered for mature audiences (except for porn/erotica I don't agree with most of these).

Parents have the right to control what their children read. They don't get to decide what everyone in their child's school reads. Everyone of the mandatory reading assignments my girls have been assigned have had options. There isn't one book that everyone has to read. I have no problem with someone deciding their son/daughter isn't ready for a particular book but they don't get to decide that my daughter can't read the book either.


Librarians are not mild mannered critters. I count 5 among my friends. Feisty would be a better descriptor.


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