Saturday, October 1, 2011

Banned Books Week


As most of you know, this has been Banned Books Week in the US. We Canadians have our Freedom to Read week in the new year. I love that the weeks are different - we get to celebrate twice!

I don't think it's any secret that I always let my own kids read widely when they were growing up and I encourage my students to do the same. I've never had a student read beyond his/her emotional yet. They always put down those books, call them 'boring' and choose something at their level. Strong readers will encounter mature topics earlier than other readers, but I've never found one not able to handle it.

I like skimming the lists to see how many are in my classroom. Kinda fun! Here's a Wikipedia List of the top 100 most commonly banned books. I have around 40 from this list in my MG class.

RL Stine's Goosebump series always makes these lists. They are 'horror' books - but they're usually more comedy than real suspense. One year I taught a girl in Grade 6 who had never read a book on her own. Too hard. I read one of the Goosebumps books into a tape recorder and she read/listened to it via headphones during our silent reading time. She asked for me another. And another. I couldn't keep up. So she told me she'd go ahead and try one on her own. She read two on her own that year.

I had her again in Grade 7. She read 17 more Goosebumps books that year. And then she tried the Fear Street series (tougher reading level). Then she moved on to more.

She came back to visit me years later and told me those books saved her. They opened her to the world of books and they helped her cope with a less than loving home life. She finished high school and college and was working towards owning her own business last I saw her.

She couldn't read more than a couple of dozen words at the beginning of Grade 6.

She read banned books.

Thankfully.

What's your favourite banned book?

59 comments:

  1. I always encouraged my children to read, but I did monitor the content when they were elementary and MS ages. Because we made reading a priority in our family, my children both read above their grade levels by 4. True story. We used book purchasing as reward for many accomplishments.

    I started reading to my children at the age of 6 months. I wanted to instill the love of reading in them.

    I encourage parents to read to their little ones. This will help them down the road academically.

    T

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  2. Aww that story about your student was heart-warming. :)

    Similarly, I assisted a boy last year whose reading level was well below his grade level and found most books too challenging unless they were picture books. The classroom teacher and I decided to give the students a chance to pick whatever book they wanted for their next book report (instead of assigning) and he chose Goosebumps. I think he read 2 or 3 in one month, which was excellent for him. Hard to believe a series that does so much good is among many that are banned...

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  3. That's an awesome and inspiring story, Jemi. Some of the books on that list just don't make sense to me.

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  4. Theresa - totally agree! Reading to kids is pretty much the best thing you can do for them. If they're strong readers, a whole lot of school comes easily - and that translates to the real world!

    Shelley - exactly! I'm so glad you and the teacher helped the little guy! The Goosebumps books have helped a lot of kids I know! :)

    Alex - thanks! I agree. There are some really silly reasons for banning books. Some of those books are on my all-time favourites list!

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  5. A list of some of my favorite books. I'd like to say something by Faulkner is one of my favorites, but I have such trouble with his writing. Love "Catcher in the Rye" and read it all through high school and "Farewell to Arms" is one of my favorites. Not sure why it could be banned in any universe.

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  6. I recently read all seven Harry Potter books. What a great story! I'm glad I read them. To Kill a Mockingbird is also a classic.

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  7. I really have to wonder about the minds of people who object to th books on the list of top 100.

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  8. Buttercup - that's the thing. These amazing books are banned/challenged for the most obscure reasons.

    Stephen - I loved the Harry Potter series too. I'd like to reread them in a row one day - I had such gaps between them originally. And Mockingbird is one I adore!

    Susan - exactly. I think a lot of the challenges come from fear. I wonder if many of the challengers have read them because the challenges often seem bizarre!

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  9. I think it's a must that parents see what their children read, when I was younger I was always reading and I could have been reading anything but in those days there were no books at the library that contained adult reading in the childrens dept.

    Yvonne.

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  10. Yvonne - I read way ahead of my years too. I remember reading James Herriot's Vet series in grade 5 or so. That was an eye opener. I remember giving them to my mom to read too - she might have been surprised, but she never stopped me :)

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  11. Your story gave me goosebumps! (No pun intended).

    It always amazes me what people seem to think should be banned.

    *shakes head in confusion*

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  12. I saw the same phenomenon with the Goosebumps books in my class. The Series of Unfortunate Events grabbed another swath of reluctant readers. The Harry Potter books still take the cake of drawing in kids. I can't believe how many copies of each I've bought to keep the ole classroom library stocked.

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  13. Thanks for sharing a most inspirational and wonderful story! Yay for banned books being read!!! Take care
    x

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  14. That's a great story! :)

    My favorite banned book is probably The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini . . . though there are a lot of other books I've enjoyed that are considered banned books.

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  15. That's an awesome, inspiring story, Jemi. I love it when my students tell me that my classroom library, my taking them to the library, or my book recommendations changed how they read, or even changed their life.

    One of my middle school teachers lent me V.C. Andrews' books. Flowers in the Attic is a banned/challenged book, and that novel turned me into a bookworm. It was truly life-altering. I ended up borrowing every V.C. Andrews book that teacher had on her shelf.

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  16. Janet - Love it! It was amazing seeing her grow so much. Goosebumps indeed :)

    Leslie - I know! I feel like I've bought dozens of some of those titles over the years. And they keep disappearing... :)

    Old Kitty - it's so nice to see someone succeed when they work so hard!

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  17. Golden Eagle - that's another good one! You're right - there are so many terrific books on the list!

    Medeia - Love that story! It really is amazing when you see a kid turned on to a great book! I'm so glad that teacher lent you those Andrews' books. Lots of people have sure enjoyed those ones! :)

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  18. Oh, Jemi! That story made me want to cry and scream. Thank goodness she found you, and you helped her find her way. That's one of the best banned book anecdotes I've ever heard. I believe it's an antidote, too. ;)

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  19. Tricia - Awwww - thank you! I was SO proud of her. And I do believe I cried when she came back to tell me how well she was doing! :)

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  20. What a wonderful story, Jemi. I'm sure there are many of us who wish we had a teacher such as you :)

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  21. wonderful tale, thx jemi :)

    my daughters are still avid readers, son, not so much, unless it's about videogames or rappers... though all three were exposed to the same reading materials, nothing was ever banned from them... likely the difference is, he's the youngest, and the separation was hardest on him, back in the day...

    i always read what i wanted to read, beginning with 'peyton place' and then 'lady chatterley's lover'....

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  22. Wendy - awww - thank you so much! What a kind thing to say :)

    Laughing Wolf - my son isn't an avid reader either - despite the same circumstances. Even from an early age, he preferred to have a bat, a ball or a puck instead of a book :)

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  23. Banned book lists always make me feel like reading those books all in a row. Such an inspiring story, thanks for sharing. I'm always thrilled to hear of others who've been turned on to reading.

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  24. Deniz - I agree! There are so many great banned books. Of course there are others which aren't my thing, but I'm sure they're somebody's favourite too :)

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  25. I love your attitude.
    While my kids are still quite young - I am letting my 11 year old loose and letting him attempt any book he likes - giving him permission to put it down if he doesn't like it or if it has themes that are against our beliefs.
    Working 'stuff' out through books then having conversations about what kids have read can expand their character without them having to experience things first hand.

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  26. OMG I love you! What an awesome post. So beautifully put. :D

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  27. That's so fantastic, Jemi - what a great teacher you are.

    Hm... I actually can't even recall what books I've read that were banned. Maybe DH Lawrence?

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  28. Michelle - totally agree! I've had so many kids over the years at school who found a book that made them realize their not alone with their 'stuff'!

    Lisa - awwww - thank you! I was so proud of her for working her butt off!

    Talli - thank you - you're so kind! A couple of my favourite challenged ones are The Giver, To Kill a Mockingbird & Fahrenheit 451! :)

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  29. I'm not aware of us having a list of banned books like that in the UK. I can't believe they even banned the whole of the Goosebumps series. When I taught Year 6 (age 10 to 11) they loved those books. The only book I've ever been aware of reading even though it was banned was Lady Chatterley's Lover (and that dates me!)

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  30. That is such a nice story! Thanks for sharing that.:)

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  31. Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses... banned in India/Pakistan for a long long time, as was the author! Not anymore though, Thankfully. That was a deep, deep, read.

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  32. That was a wonderful story... thank you for sharing :)..you truly are a wonderful teacher... I loved the R.L. Stine books growing up too.

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  33. I have no idea! I don't remember what's on the list.

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  34. Rosalind - The Goosebumps series is so popular with kids. Lady C's Lover is another one I've read and enjoyed (once upon a time)

    DL - you're welcome. I was so proud of her - she worked so hard!

    Life - I never did read Rushdie's work. I'm glad it's available for people to access though!

    Writing Nut - thank you - what a kind thing to say! I've had dozens and dozens of kids grow up with Goosebumps! :)

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  35. Diane - I think you'd be surprised at some of the terrific books on these lists! :)

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  36. What an incredible story. You're a fabulous teacher, Jemi!

    My favorite banned books on the list are James and the Giant Peach and To Kill a Mockingbird. But I've read and loved lots of books on the list!

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  37. I used to LOVE the Goosebumps books!! When I have kids someday, I will definitely encourage them to read everything. Banned books lists always make me want to "rebel" and read all of the stuff on them. It's ridiculous that books meant to be read are shunned because of their topic or some other objective reason.

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  38. Laura - thank you - you're so sweet! I love those 2 books - and so many more on the list. I don't understand why people can't see how wonderful they are!

    Julie - Goosebumps is SUCH a popular series. So much fun! I'm with you - we need to encourage kids to read these wonderful books!

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  39. Lovely story about your student. She must have spent many wonderful hours with her banned books just because of your encouragement!

    Well, if I come across a Goosebumps and Fear Street even now, I read it!

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  40. Nas - thanks! They're fun books - so many of my students have enjoyed them over the years! :)

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  41. When my husband used to teach 5th grade, he swore by the Goosebump books. He is convinced that they helped turn many, many non-readers into readers.

    Shelley

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  42. Shelley - I completely agree with your hubby! They're not as popular as they were a decade ago, but I still have many kids who love them. The combination of humour and suspense is very, very appealing! :)

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  43. A beautiful story, Jemi. How touching that she can back to let you know what a difference you made in her life. It must have been a moment you will forever cherish. Books do change lives too, even the 'banned' ones, for the better!

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  44. I clicked on the list to see to remind myself what books I really love are on it. Was scanning down and stopped dead on How to Eat Fried Worms. Seriously? My kids loved that book. It was funny. It was supposed to be funny. Banned? Why on earth for? The idea that some of those titles are on that list is truly terrifying.

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  45. Lynn - it really was special! It's so nice to hear who kids who feel so good about themselves and what they've accomplished! I was thrilled :)

    Linda - I know! It makes me laugh to see Fried Worms on the list. It's such a silly, fun book! It's ridiculous to see that kind of book on a list for sure!

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  46. I like all kinds of banned books but the most recent one I've read is Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I think it was banned in Missouri or something.

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  47. Lydia - I think it's been challenged in a few places. I have a couple of copies of that one in my classroom. It's a important book to have.

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  48. Jemi,

    You are truly an inspiration. And I don't know how anyone can challenge or ban books when stories like this repeatedly surface.

    Obviously, all books are important on some level and all kids need to be free to choose the book that ignites their passion in the written word.

    Rock on, Jem.

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  49. Cat - thank you - you're a sweetie! :)

    I really do think kids choose wisely. If we can find that 'home run' book for them, we can turn them into lifelong readers - and then everything is easier!

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  50. R.L Stine wrote great books that were suspense, not horror. I can't believe people would ban them. They obviously never read one.
    Great post!

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  51. Emily - Thank you! :)

    I agree! Stine's books are great for MG aged kids - suspense mixed with comedy and characters who are fun and silly. Great stuff! :)

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  52. Hi Jemi. We don't have a Banned Books Week in Australia but I've been studying The Book Thief with some students and it's good to have a discussion about what sort of thing brings on such actions, like, well, Hitler's birthday celebrations!

    Denise

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  53. Denise - The Book Thief is an amazing book! I'm so glad you're discussing it with your students - it's powerful! :)

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  54. What a great story! I love that that girl was so inspired. And I love that you did what it took to get her reading - that's so rare these days. Teachers really are a special group of people.

    I don't think I can pick one favorite banned book, but my son's is definitely Harry Potter. It opened up a whole new magical world for him.

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  55. Ishta - Thank you! I was so proud of her for working so hard and accomplishing so much!

    I agree with your son - one of my favourite series from that list is the Harry Potter series. Love it!

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  56. I always find some of the books on the list to be rather strange choices--almost like they are so good that they should be read and if they're banned kids will have more of an interest in reading them. Then other titles sound like they probably should be kept out of kids' hands.


    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  57. Lee - There are some terrific books on those lists that I would hope most people would read. They're SO good! :)

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  58. This story touched me! Thank you for the difference that you make in so many lives!

    My son has never liked reading (dyslexia makes it a trial) but I managed to teach him to read well enough to cope in a world that demands literacy and then I instilled a love of books in him via audiobooks. I think his Audible collection may be bigger than his CDs! And then I was talking to him a couple of weeks ago and he mentioned some book that he "read this week." I said, "You did WHAT!!!!" He laughed at me and repeated that he had read it. His friends were talking about it and there wasn't an audiobook available. Another little miracle!

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  59. Beth - thank you!

    Dealing with dyslexia is a challenge! I'm so glad you were able to help him learn to cope with it. Audio books are a fabulous invention - and now I don't have to read them all into tapes :) It's amazing what a person can do if the motivation is strong enough - you must be so proud of him!!

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