Thursday, October 2, 2008

Banned Books Week

The American Library Association has named this Banned Books Week -

They want to highlight intellectual freedom and the right to read. As a librarian I feel pretty strongly that you should be able to read pretty much what you want to. As a parent, I have held different opinions. Perhaps I've become more enlightened.

I was asked to read and comment on a banned book for another blog and decided to post it here as well. You can read others comments at if you'd like to see what others are talking about.

I read Chris Crutcher’s Athletic Shorts. 6 short stories published in 1991 that have won the School Library Journal Best Book of the Year Award as well as the American Library Association’s Best Book for Young Adults Award.

The book has been banned for homosexuality and offensive language. It has been on the Top Ten List of Banned Books for the past 10 years.

Yes, the book uses language that is normally considered offensive. But it is also the language you hear everyday in the hallways of almost every high school in this country. That’s why kids like the book-it’s real; real stuff that happens to real people, just like them. Chris Crutcher gets that. He has coached high school teams. He has and still is, I believe, counseling troubled teen-agers so he knows what he’s talking about. Teen readers respect that.

What I liked about the stories is that each one had a moment that offered hope or redemption to at least one of the characters. And it’s done so well, some kids may not even notice. Kids can see that over done story and won’t read it or tell their friends about it. In Athletic Shorts, they just might see themselves.

Yes, we need to make sure what our kids read has some kind of value-even if it is just entertainment value. But is also our job as parents, educators, librarians, and citizens to have free access. If we don’t want our kids reading something, then it is our responsibility to monitor said kid and also to teach them to make those decisions. Reading is such an individual occupation that what I like, you may not and vice versa. However, it is not my responsibility to tell you what you can or cannot read. It should not be up to one individual to decide whether a book is acceptable to a whole community. So we have Banned Books Week to remind us of that.