Thursday, September 30, 2010

Frustration

Few things are more frustrating to me than hearing about people banning books or threatening to ban books. First of all it's the age of the Internet. Do these people seriously think they can control all the information people are accessing by banning a book from schools or libraries? Seriously?

One of my favourite parts of hearing about people trying to ban a book is the inevitable backlash. They always seem to underestimate this. It's fun to watch the sales of the threatened book soar. I'm sure Speak's sales have been pretty good over the past week or so! :)

This ALA list of banned and threatened books blows my mind. I have about 30 of these in my Grade 5/6 classroom. Some of these books are among my favourite books of all time! Everyone needs to read The Giver and To Kill a Mockingbird. Those books are full of ideas, love, honesty, integrity, passion, strength, the beauty of the human spirit. They teach invaluable lessons about the Power of One. They remind me of the wonderful quote by Margaret Mead:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

I've read several books from this list aloud to my students over the years. The Giver is always a favourite. As are Harry Potter, Julie of the Wolves, A Wrinkle in Time, Killing Mr. Griffin, Bridge to Terabithia and The Face on the Milk Carton. If I taught older students, Fahrenheit 451 would definitely be on my list. Bradbury's brilliance needs to be shared.
 
The last thing we need to do is limit our students' experiences and choices. We need to teach them to think for themselves, to analyze, evaluate and critique. Taking away their right to choose teaches them nothing.
 
Sometimes people want to ban books because they feel the topics are inappropriate for the age of the target audience. I wonder how many people of the target age they really know and are really able to speak with. Kids deal with a lot. And a lot of it on their own. They already think and wonder. Why would we not allow them to read about these issues, learn new ways to approach and deal with problems? Why would we want them to think they're alone?
 
What's your favourite book that's been banned or threatened?

104 comments:

  1. There are so many amazing books on the banned/challenged list, it boggles the mind. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird are my three favorite books of all time. I was stunned to find every one of them is on the list.

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  2. VR - It's crazy! I really have to stretch to think why someone would even consider some of these books dangerous. They must be afraid of an awful lot of things in life if these books scare them!

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  3. To Kill a Mockingbird is right up there as one of my favourite books period. Also - Catcher in the Rye and well, countless others as banning books is a very old sport of the narrow-minded. The thing that thrills me in a perverse way about the banning of books is that it means somewhere in the reptilian brain of even the most stupid is a spark that understands how deeply subversive books are - how powerful they are. I like that.

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  4. The concept of banning books is always something I struggle to wrap my head around. I fully respect anyone not choosing to read a book, or feeling that the content is not appropriate for their own children, for whatever reason. Certainly people are entitled to reject a book, but when they want to prevent others from making the choice to read it... it's just bizarre.

    Hope someday I have a book idea powerful or revolutionary enough to face the threat of a ban! ;)

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  5. Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby and so many more are favorites.
    I don't believe in censorship and I don't believe children are as unintelligent as some folks think.

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  6. Jan - exactly - Mockingbird is such a powerful, wonderful book! The depth of that book pulls at me every time I read it.

    Subversive - love it! - one of the reasons I adore the concept of Fahrenheit 451

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  7. Lindsey - I've often thought the same. If someone wants to ban your book, you know you've struck a chord. :)

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  8. I will never understand the concept of banning books, it's such dangerous territory.
    As in most things, people should have the right to choose for themselves and their own children.

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  9. Mary - exactly! The discussions I had with my class last year over The Giver were incredible! Kids think with such depth and clarity - I think some adults need to learn how to really listen!

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  10. I'm reading A Prayer for Owen Meany right now. And I'd have to say one of my favorites is The Giver and also To Kill A Mockingbird. You're right about the backlash. Wouldn't that be about the best thing that could happen to an author? Love the Mead quote, by the way.
    Thanks!

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  11. Cate - it really is dangerous. Having the right to choose is essential! Teaching kids to really think and to learn the skills needed to make their own choices are so vital!!

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  12. Yvonne - you're so welcome!! I find so many people are afraid of what they don't understand. I think a lot of the talk of banning comes from fear.

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  13. It's frightening what a few narrow minds with wide mouths can do. I'm always amazed at the banned book list.

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  14. Susan - it is shocking! I LOVE your description - narrow minds and wide mouths!! Awesome :)

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  15. I'm amazed at the banned book list. I was floored when I saw that some of my favorites were on it! I think these individuals should give kids more creit to know the difference between fiction and reality, and right from wrong. Banning books just sends a negative message.

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  16. Reane - it is unbelievable what books are on that list! I totally agree - kids are so much smarter and more capable than many people believe or expect. We need to trust them!

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  17. Great summing up Jemi. I adore His Dark Material Trilogy and can't wait to share it with my son. I do understand why some people might not like it. But they can choose not to pick it up, the way I choose not to pick up horror books. Trying to take away others choice makes me furious.

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  18. Alexa - Love His Dark Material too!

    That's the crux of it. We are allowed to make free choice. Kids are so much smarter and so much more savvy than many people believe. Limiting their choices is not helping anyone!

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  19. There are just so many good ones! Roald Dahl, Chris Crutcher and Ellen Hopkins are wonderful writers. I adore Huck Finn and Mockingbird and Harry Potter. The Giver IS a student favorite - you're right. And oh, how I LOVE Julie of the Wolves! :-)

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  20. The Giver! One of my all-time favorites. I was actually shocked to see a few years ago that it was on a banned list. I've read most of the other books that you mentioned, and they are all wonderful.

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  21. I homeschooled my daughter while we lived in the UK and I had her read THE GIVER when she was in fifth grade. There were definitely some things we had to talk about, but that's the beauty of books like this. Not only are they remarkable, but they open the door to discussion.

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  22. The last thing we need to do is limit our students' experiences and choices. We need to teach them to think for themselves, to analyze, evaluate and critique.


    Amen! And yet, it's surprising when I teach lessons that do just that the backlash I receive from parents. I just tell myself that their children are the students I most need to reach.

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  23. Fantastic post.

    TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is one of my all time fav's and a must-read in my opinion.

    Censorship in any form is someone trying to tell you what to do. It's up to me to decide to do or not do! Since when is it okay for a complete stranger to make rules regarding what books we are to read or what music we listen to? It really just backfires on them anyway ;o) As you said, I'm sure the sales of these books are going up as I write this comment!

    "Kids deal with a lot." So true, let's give them the credit to chose what they want to read and what they don't!!

    Great post ;o)

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  24. It is frustrating Jemi! Some of my favorite books are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn (both), Harry Potter books, Speak, the Twilight series, so many more. There's a slew of them that are so great.
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

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  25. You don't mean to tell me Harper Lees' classic is on the list of banned books? I read it when I was still in school, and if I am asked to name one book that molded me to what I am, I would say it is To Kill a Mockingbird.
    I would put that book as a must read for kids in the YA age group.

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  26. banning a book, must have been through a series of ideas and concepts ... we certainly should read the appropriate books which good for ourselves or our children ...

    Very nice post, Jemi!
    have a great week ahead.
    nensa

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  27. Captain Underpants is on the banned book list? Wow. The thing about banning a book is it makes it more intriging. The books on this list - I've read quite a few of them - and they're amazing! I'm trying to figure out why they should be banned.

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  28. I love all the books you mention. On the bright side, we are breathing life back into a lot of these classics every time we stand up for them.
    What bothers me are the many times books get banned and no one notices so the ban sticks.

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  29. Huckleberry Finn hands down! It's hilarious and touching and fun. It also has a great message. If this book gets banned then so should a ton of rap songs.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  30. I can think of much more worse things to ban.

    The news bulletins are not especially happy hour with reports of murders, killong of soldiers and other things that children shouldn't hear.
    I personally think it's up to the individual parents to decide what they know their child would be upset with.

    Yvonne.

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  31. Animal Farm by George Orwell. Lady Chatterly's Lover by DH Lawrence.
    :-)

    Take care
    x

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  32. I believe many of Ibsen's books were bannes, and I love his work. Also, Hans Jaeger's books "Christiania bohemer" was banned, as well as Agnar Mykle's "The Red Ruby", which are great books!

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  33. Shannon - I agree - there are so many wonderful books. It's hard to believe people are afraid of some of these ideas!

    Rebecca - I'd already read and loved the Giver before I'd found it on one of these lists - mind boggling. It's a book that opens minds. Maybe that's what they're afraid of!

    Carol - exactly! That's the point of reading aloud to me. I love having the discussions with the kids and watching them analyze and make connections and THINK!

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  34. There are so many books on that banned/challenged list that I love, I wouldn't know where to begin! Um, I guess some of my faves are The Giver, the Harry Potter series, Speak...all the YA's pretty much plus a ton of other ones. And I wouldn't have known about them if they'd been banned.

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  35. Can you pick up an Award from my blog.

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  36. Stephanie - totally agree! It always surprises me when someone questions the book or the discussions or the ideas! Open minds are essential!

    Erica - thanks! I always find kids are so much more aware of pretty much everything than their parents expect. I have quite a few 'older' books in my room and I always talk with them before during and after they read them.

    Lisa - exactly! It's amazing how many important and thought-provoking books make these list. I wonder why people are so afraid of ideas.

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  37. Rayna - I agree! Mockingbird is SUCH an amazing book. There are so many layers, so many messages in this book - and all of them good!!

    Nensa - thank you! Banning books scares me. I don't want to limit the thinking for my kids. I much prefer to teach them to think for themselves!

    RaShelle - I know! Who's afraid of Captain Underpants?? So many great and thought-provoking books on this list! Mind boggling.

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  38. Tricia - we don't have any book banning going on in my area. In fact when the teachers around here hear about a book being banned, we all tend to read it then often share it with our students :)

    Lee - I read Huck Finn when I was pretty young and I didn't find it difficult at all to follow the real message and understand the dialect was an echo of the time. Something to learn from.

    Yvonne - I agree. I think reading a variety of books and discussing them with kids is the best way to get them to think for themselves.

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  39. Old Kitty - two more great books!! Animal Farm blew me away when I read it in high school. Orwell was brilliant!

    Alexandra - I think I've seen Ibsen on these lists too. It's amazing how many wonderful books make it there!

    Mary - exactly! Think how many doors would have been closed if we hadn't read them - how much smaller our worlds and our minds would be!

    Rayna - thanks!! I'll pop on over :)

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  40. I guess I'd have to see the list to know if any books I like are on it.
    What's funny is they seem to go after books because of ideas and content rather than gratuitous sex or foul language. Weird.

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  41. To Kill A Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn are my favorites. Really dumb for these books to be banned. I'll never understand book banning. I'll buy the books and let my kids read the.

    Stephen Tremp

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  42. I like too many of them to have a favorite. I didn't even realize that some of them were banned! Maybe that's what makes them good - they took risks.

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  43. The banned book list really is a list of the best written, greatest storytelling and most beloved books! A lot of my favorites are on that list, but To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my absolute favorites!

    There's not a problem if people want to avoid reading a book or keep their own kids from reading something. But it's wrong when they try and force others, especially other people's children, to do the same thing!

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  44. I agree with everything you said. :)

    BUT, the upside is that the idiots that try to ban these books only serve to give attention to the books ...and make them best sellers!!! :)

    Have a wonderful weekend, Jemi!
    Love,
    Lola

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  45. It simply boggles the mind! Don't these people have anything better to do?

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  46. Well said. Banning books should not happen because we all deserve the right to make our own choices. Some of us have gone through horrific things and reading a book on the subject shows us that we are not alone. No one has the right to deprive us of that! It's not sensationalistic; it's the truth! It's how the world is.

    My favorite banned book would have to be Harry Potter. It is fiction, nothing more! Therefore reading it does not mean I am an anti-Christian ocultist. And if that is the case for some people, so what! Get over it or move to some country where its people don't have the freedom of choice and self-expression and see how much better it is. >:/

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  47. Diane - I know. The reasons for banning can be so silly. Some people are so afraid of letting kids think and reason and analyze. Sad.

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  48. Stephen - I know! I have so many books in my classroom that have been banned in other places. I didn't even know most of them had been banned until I read the lists. I'm so grateful my school board has never gone that way :)

    Laura P - exactly - taking risks is probably part of what makes them so powerful. They make people think and I think that's wonderful!

    Laura M - I know - trying to control what other people think and read is the scary part. It's amazing how some people believe their opinions are better than our own.

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  49. Lola - I knew you'd feel the same!! :) It is fun to watch those sales go through the roof!

    Terry - good question! They really do need to find a hobby :)

    Amanda - love it! Harry Potter is one of my favourites too. It's such a fantastic book! I really don't understand the thinking behind the banning at all.

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  50. That list is crazy! A Bridge to Terabitha? A Wrinkle in Time? Huckleberry Finn??? Craziness. What can the kids read then? Sabrina the Teenage Witch maybe. Geesh.. Congratulations to writing a post that didn't feel like a rant against such atrocity. I don't know if I could have done that.

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  51. There are so many fantastic books that have been banned, that it's mind boggling. I'd probably have to go with Harry Potter.

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  52. Banning books is a social movement of people who want to impose their viewpoint on others, which is the ultimate disrespect to people's rights and believes. It's unconstitutional and shameful, as are the attempts of governments all over the world to control the flow of private and public information. A disease of our generation.

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  53. I checked out the list, and am curious as to why some of them were banned. I've read a lot of them, and am mystified.

    (Although I can understand in the case of Junie B. Jones.) ;)

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  54. Wonderful post. Clearly, I need to read The Giver sometime very soon. :)

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  55. Thanks Lynn! It is hard. It's appalling that these books aren't available to everyone. They're full of wonder and strength and the joy of being human and finding our way. I don't understand the banning.

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  56. Lisa Gail - I love Harry Potter. Rowling created such an amazing world and it's so easy to submerse myself in it. Wonderful stuff!

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  57. Mari - well said!! I think we need to educate our kids to think and analyze and critique and advocate. If they don't have these skills they'll find it difficult to be independent and make decisions for themselves.

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  58. Layinda - it's a wild list. I knew some of them, but there are several in my classrooom I didn't know had 'made it' onto one of these lists. They're wonderful books! I don't understand!!

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  59. Julie - thanks! You'll love the Giver. It's such a great book. I love how Lowry sets her scene and gives her characters such depth against the backdrop. Beautiful!

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  60. I'm totally with you on banned books--NOT!

    Hmm. When I read A Catcher in the Rye years ago, it profoundly affected (in a good way) my feelings of insecurity. So OTHERS felt this way and saw the hypocrisy in "Secret Slobs."
    So I'd have to say Catcher though I love many of the your highlights.

    Miss you!
    P

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  61. Patti - I hate to admit, but I don't remember Catcher. I know I read it in high school, but it didn't have the impact some of the other books did. I definitely have to re-read it one of these days!

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  62. I had no idea To Kill a Mockingbird had been banned. It's one of my favourite books of all time, and has SO much to teach anyone, kids or adults.

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  63. SF - I completely agree! It's probably the most powerful book I've ever read - so many layers - so many beautiful story lines all woven together. It's incredible.

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  65. Sorry, deleted my previous comment because I'd written something incomprehensible - this is what I get for posting as I drink my morning coffee. :)

    I think it's sad that many of these books have been banned from school libraries or curriculum at some point in time. I admit, there are rare books that I do think it would be inappropriate to expose kids to (I read de Sade in college, and I wasn't ready for the meaningless sexual violence in that one as an adult) but I think virtually any piece of literature can and should be read by a child if it captures their interest, especially if there's an adult to discuss any questionable content with.

    But... I also don't understand why you'd find anything objectionable about the books you discuss here (Alright, I do understand, I just don't understand being that small-minded). To Kill A Mockingbird is definitely my favorite of the banned books - it's a great story that I can't wait to share with my kids someday.

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  66. Guinevere - lol - no worries! :)

    "Alright, I do understand, I just don't understand being that small-minded" Love this comment!!

    Mockingbird is such a powerful book - with such messages of good and strength. Not having it in my classroom would be impossible.

    I find for the most part, kids are able to self-monitor for what is above them. They almost always put down a book that would be inappropriate for them within a few pages.

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  67. "Why would we want them to think they're alone?"

    You're absolutely right. One of the amazing things about books is that they help you realize you're NOT alone. The bad things can seem better, as long as you speak out, and don't pretend they don't exist.

    Love this post Jemi - I remember reading Killing Mr. Griffin, and loved the Great Gatsby as well.

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  68. WNut - Thanks :)

    Books are so powerful and help so many people! I can't begin to tell you of the kids in my class who've found those special books that made their own lives easeir to take. It's important they have access to them.

    So many people were shocked when I read Killing Mr. Griffin aloud in class - but there are so many fabulous lessons in there!

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  69. The Harry Potter series are probably my favorite books that have been banned. I just don't understand it. If you don't like the book, don't read it. It's that simple.

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  70. "One of my favourite parts of hearing about people trying to ban a book is the inevitable backlash. They always seem to underestimate this. It's fun to watch the sales of the threatened book soar."

    I love this! These ridiculous book banners have no idea what they're doing.

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  71. Hannah - it really should be that simple, shouldn't it? No one is being forced to read these books, so they should relax! :)

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  72. Shelley - I agree! It's so nice to see so many people respond by buying the book in question. I love that :)

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  73. Hi Jemi! One thing that I <3 about you is that you reply to everyone's comment in it's own individual comment box. You're so cute!

    *Cringe* I can't say I have any thoughts or opinions on banned books. I'm too busy raising my kids and doing my own kind of teaching of rights and wrongs with them as well as writing and editing and stuff. Life is crazy.

    If I have an opinion on the matter, it would be that it's fine with me what material is presented at schools so long as it doesn't teach kids that it's OKAY to murder, cheat, steal--do do anything ammoral in my opinion.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

    ~Elizabeth :)

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  74. Thanks Elizabeth :)

    Life is crazy especially when those kids are younger! I totally understand!!

    I think it's so important for teachers to discuss with the kids any of the books they read in class and they have access to. Read aloud time is my favourite part of the day because that's when we have these amazing discussions about the books. Kids are incredibly insightful and have so many questions. It's awesome!

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  75. Honestly, I think TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is my favorite all-time book.

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  76. Cannot agree more Jemi! I'll certainly do that with my kids. When I have them, that is, heh.

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  77. Jennifer - I agree - it's amazing. I love the layers and the multiple storylines!

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  78. Mari - It's so important to teach kids to analyze and think for themselves. I know you'll be an amazing mom! :)

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  79. Oh man, I think almost all of them! Reading the reason why they were banned or challenged is like reading the same thing over and over again. Come on. Swearing? Does your child not watch TV or movies? See the graffiti in the playground? Oh, right... seeing it written down is sooo much more dangerous.

    I was talking to a principal this weekend and she delights in the reaction of students when she starts reading them "Of Mice and Men" out loud. They gasp and are so shocked that she is swearing. She always replies, "I'm not swearing, I'm reading. There is a difference." I kind of like that philosophy.

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  80. Jean - I love it!! I'm going to have to use that one. I changed a couple of words in Ranger's Apprentice which I'm reading to my class right now. I know there's one swear in The Outsiders I always read as-is (when I teach grade 8 kids). It's at such an emotional moment I don't think changing it would work. It's very effective.

    I'm teaching grade 5/6 this year and I know a LOT of the kids watch their language around me. They're so used to swearing out in their real worlds. Sad, but true.

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  81. My favorite quote! Margaret Mead was an amazing woman.

    Many of the books you mentioned are my favorite banned books, but especially the Harry Potter books. Those books bring reading to children that normally would never touch a book. We can't thank Rowling enough for that.

    Have a great night, Jemi!

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  82. Jackee - she really was!

    Rowling sure created an amazing world and then became such a phenomenon! I agree - so many kids loved her books who were not your typical readers :)

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  83. I can't believe A Wrinkle in Time was banned!?! Crazy stuff. I love this book.

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  84. LOVED To Kill a Mockingbird. I had no idea it was banned!

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  85. Wow, sounds like half the books I read in school were banned! Yes,it's an ironic result of banning. Nothing makes me want to read a book like banning it.

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  86. Talli - I know! I love that book. It's so creative. It might be the banned book I read aloud this year :)

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  87. Julie - I love Mockingbird. It's so powerful - so beautiful. I always tell my students to remember the title in high school and tell them they'll love the book!

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  88. Tamara - I know! It's crazy. I'm so glad I had teachers who didn't listen to people who tried to ban books - and a school board who doesn't believe in banning. Instead our board encourages us to help the kids think independently and critically!

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  89. I think everyone here has pretty much said what I was going to say, but banning seems such an outdated response. Has anyone watched MTV lately? Listened to song lyrics? Books seem so tame compared to what is out there.

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  90. Anne - so true! I don't understand the panic reaction. You can't even absorb a book passively like you can music and TV - you have to choose to read it! It all seems kind of silly! :)

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  91. I've never read To Kill a Mockingbird and this is the second blog post I've read today to mention this book. I feel I have missed out on something haha will definately hunt it down.

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  92. Niki - I hope you can track it down. It's an amazing book that can be read on so many levels - from growing up to treating people fairly to racism to power. Awesome!!

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  93. just found your blog. am following now :)

    i stand on the fence of "no book should ever be required reading"....reading is a very personal experience that should be limited to what a child can handle. my daughter was given a required reading assignment that no-one in my family approved of. i never asked they ban the book - i just asked that my daughter not read it. thankfully the teacher respectfully agreed.

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  94. Thanks dear, I sure hope so. uh (heh)

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  95. Amie - thanks :)

    Good point. Reading is so very personal. We don't have group readings in our schools - the kids read their own individually chosen books. I do read aloud a book we all enjoy together.

    I would hope all teachers would respect your decision to not have a child read a specific book.

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  96. Mari - you're welcome! And this is one time I know I'm right :)

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  97. a very interesting blog, please visit my blog too ... thank you

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  98. I was happy to see a display of banned books at our library. Right as you walked in was a case of shelves with yellow police-like tape wrapped around it. It was a hit and people loved it it and the library's sense of humor.

    Stephen Tremp

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  99. Harry Potter, The Giver, To Kill a Mockingbird, Speak, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? ALl these novels are near and dear to my heart, they represent a different time in my life, what shaped and molded me to become the writer I am today. They inspire and maybe that's why people are afraid to love them, they promote independence, the ability to speak, to understand, to appreciate... some people just run scared.

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  100. Thanks asadisae - I'll check it out :)

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  101. Stephen - that's a fantastic idea!! You're right - it would be an attention grabber. I may have to do just that next year! Great tip :)

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  102. Jen - totally agree! So many great books, so many panicky people. I wonder if they've even read the books in entirety.

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  103. "Catcher in the Rye" is one of my all-time favorite books. When I was in eighth grade my mother was concerned I wasn't reading books with substance and suggested "Catcher..." and "Ethan Frome." Read and loved both. Don't think either brought me down a bad path.

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  104. Buttercup - there are so many good books on the list - and I agree - no one's gone down a bad path from reading one of these books! Your mom sure had some good taste!

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