September 24th-30th is Banned Books Week, an event that celebrates the idea that we can read whatever we damn well please. For years, individuals, school systems, and even libraries have challenged great literary works, hoping to have certain titles removed from the book shelves. Great authors like Harper Lee, Toni Morrison, and Ray Bradbury have been challenged, and their great works have been banned at one point in life. These listed authors (and many other authors) just happen to be the most critically acclaimed and well-praised writers of the generations. Even some children’s books are innovative, displaying the modern ways of life to younger readers. So the question is: why do great books get banned, and why do some children’s books get banned?
There are many factors that can get a book banned, and one is religious purposes. For example, Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451 can offend religious individuals with the book's scenes where the character’s smoke cigars, have drinks, and have small talk about women and wars.
Another factor is whether or not a book has sex scenes, or even better, an LGBT couple. Sex offends many people, and apparently the LGBT content is still taboo even in our progressive times. Most recently, books involving transgender individuals have been challenged as well. Other factors of banned books include drug use, profanity, and violence.
Now, I don't know about you, but when I read, I look for the story: an experience, a quote that speaks to me, a theme, a symbol, imagery, a meaning behind situations, and solutions that have meaning. Books help me live and experience life. Books reveal to us lives and situations of others that are different, or even similar, to us. Books make us laugh;, they make us cry; they make us set down the book itself and have a quiet thought amongst ourselves. Everyone has different reading styles and habits; people read many different things. We all have different personalities, and books ought to address the broad spectrum of the human mind and emotion.
It's tough for books to address the spectrum of the human mind and emotion when they are banned. It all comes down to opinions, and what we think is offensive. However, I believe that another important issue involves the age groups. A lot of times, schools will ban books from the shelves because the content is too mature for children. For extreme cases of literary works, they are correct. Everyone can agree that some books are simply not meant for children to read due to the content. Would you allow your elementary schools to have Adolf Hitler's book on the shelves? Would you let a child read that terribly written erotic novel, Fifty Shades of Grey?
As mentioned before, those booksare extreme cases, but what about the situations that are not? What about the picture book about the two gay penguin dads called And Tango Makes Three? Is the book banned in many schools because it simply features a same-sex couple? In certain areas where the book is banned, it is safe to assume that the idea of homosexuality is a negative one, despite gay marriage and acceptance slowly becoming a globally accepted concept. The differences between And Tango Makes Three and Fifty Shades of Grey are obvious. I believe that stories, especially children's books, should not be banned if they present an optimistic, informative, or positive viewpoint of a relevant topic that does not encourage immoral behavior.
In fact, I don't think any publishers would even allow an immoral story to be published for kids. Could you imagine a children's book written to glorify and encourage BDSM and abusive relationships, like how Fifty Shades of Grey does for adults, or what about a children's book that displays Hitler as a good guy?
It's clear as to why some books are banned from certain places and libraries. To be honest, I would slightly monitor my future child's reading habits, just to make sure they won't end up reading something like Hitler's book, or Fifty Shades of Grey. It all dwindles down to opinions, but I believe reading is an expression that should be encouraged often, and monitored to some extent and only in extreme circumstances.
For the complete list of challenged and banned books, feel free to check out the American Library Association's list here:
Also, check out the annual list of the top 10 challenged books: