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Today ‘s feature Banned Book Lover is a friend of mine from my undergrad years/church. She’s been an English Language Arts teacher for years, and this year started working as a library media specialist. Since she’s got some good stories to tell, I’ll call her J.

1. What is your favorite banned book?  

The Giver

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”

2. Did you ever sneak around to read a banned book? Have a good story? Or do you have a horror story associated with a banned book? i.e. got caught and grounded… 

I never snuck around reading a banned book because, quite frankly, I had never heard of banned books week until I started doing my coursework for educational technology/library media. I think I’m lucky in that I never faced any controversy over what books I chose to read as a child/teen/young adult. Had I known there were books that had at some point in time been banned, I think I would have been greatly intrigued. Enough so that I would have gone in search of some of them.

As a teacher, I am aware of one instance where someone was against our students reading The Giver as a part of our curriculum (imagine my excitement when I found out I would be teaching one of my favorite books!). A “parent” raised a bit of a fuss about the content of the book stating that it was not at all appropriate for middle schoolers…and really not even high schoolers. He never gave the name of his “daughter” despite having some apparent serious concerns about her reading the book in class. An option was suggested that she could read a separate story independently of the class and do work/take quizzes/etc. in place of what the rest of the students were doing for The Giver. He never agreed to that and we were never able to determine if he was in fact even a father to one of our students or just a random community member trying to raise a stink. His name was not in any record we could find on any of our students.
My principal stormed up to my room in the middle of class after getting the initial email from this “parent” accusing me of teaching/using a book that was not a part of our curriculum. I can’t remember now all she said, but I was completely caught off guard and wishing the other lit. teacher was not on maternity leave so that she could help me out. She was spouting off supposed topics in the story (it was clear to me she has never even read it…at least not in a good long while) and basically taking this man’s email as fact. In the midst of being [unfairly] reprimanded I began second guessing myself on if it was actually a part of the curriculum. Once I had a chance, I quickly found the curriculum guide and walked it down to the principal to show her that it was in fact a required reading for our students. She calmed down…but never did apologize for her rash decisions.

3.  Why do you feel promoting a banned book is important?

I feel promoting banned books is important because it lets your students (and whomever else) know that you are a believer in intellectual freedom. Not that students would use that phrase, but they would understand that you are not letting personal likes/dislikes/values/beliefs/etc. run your library. Now, I do believe that some content is not appropriate for certain ages, but I would never ban a book. Back to the question, though, promoting banned books also teaches the students that there is a wider world out there that they may not yet know about. For a student to hear that there are people out there who have attempted to ban Charlotte’s Web is powerful. They begin to make the realization that not everyone thinks/believes the same way they do. It opens up their minds to the viewpoints of others. Plus, I think promoting a banned book is a great way to get otherwise reluctant readers reading…what doesn’t sound more fun than reading a book that has been banned?!

Book talk: Have you read The Giver? In school? On your own? What are your thoughts? Worth the ban or not?

Hopeful reading!