Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “American Library Association”

Flip Side of Freedom to Read: BB Week #7

image: Flicker

As Banned Book Week closes I am prompted to open up what is either a tempest or a tornado depending upon your cup of tea.  The above reflection captures my dichotomy of thought when it comes to banning, censoring, or challenging intellectual expression.  It all comes down to which hat I am wearing. The following is based on real life examples seen in three different perspectives.

Librarian Hat
Figuratively speaking this hat involves closing mouth and opening brain.  Please don’t come up to my desk and say, “I can’t believe you have The Joy of Sex on the library shelves.  First of all, I didn’t buy the book.  That decision wasn’t mine, and the book occupied the shelves long before I came on staff.  Secondly, the library is funded with public taxpayer money and if enough people requested it then the book is bought.  Thirdly, if the book offends you I suggest you don’t check it out.  And please don’t take our books into the bathroom.  Yes, that’s why we have the security gate before you go into the hallway with the restrooms. We have seen the soggy results of indiscriminate censoring.

Parent Hat
If I wanted my children to learn about the birds and bees I will tell them, on my own terms and in my own way, sans the graphic illustrations.  I can’t believe the library allows a fourteen year old to check out The Joy of Sex.  She isn’t even dating yet!  Why have something available that she isn’t ready to understand?  How did I know she checked it out?  When I moved her backpack into her room I noticed the cover.  Good grief! Was I shocked!  It’s almost pornography!  My tax dollars buys this kind of stuff!

Teacher Hat
“Here is a note from my dad.” I read it and discover I am to assign something else for his daughter to read during the next quarter unit book study.  The book? Lord of the Flies.  Furthermore, she was not to be present in the classroom during the unit.  He found the aspect of children killing children too strong for his daughter. I respected his request, and did so because I believe in his parental right of choice.  I also have to because our school practices an “op-out” policy, which means if a parent is opposed to the text assigned another is given in its place.  It happens.  And it’s okay. It’s inconvenient, but it’s okay.

Informed Citizen Hat
We live in a land where we are allowed the freedom of choice when it comes to expressing our creative endeavors.  We don’t have to worry about the secret and not-so-secret police storming into our households because we have told a joke that mocks the current leader, or because the bible we received as a gift from a visiting missionary is against my country’s religion, or because  I’m watching a movie that offends a segment of the population. As an American I have that protected freedom.  I am thankful.

Now on the flip side, my personal, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual beliefs may not line up with the person next to me.  I know inherently what is best practice for me in terms of reading and viewing, yet I can’t make that decision for you.  Yes, I might express my opinion–I’m entitled to do so, and you might not like it. You see,  I’m conservative in most of my views.  I’m a bit a puritan, I suppose.  But I have a difficult time faulting your right to make an informed choice. I do not want to end up in a society like the one Ray Bradbury created in Fahrenheit 451, where the government didn’t stop the reading of books–people did, for fear of offending one another.

And while I do believe in intellectual choice, with all these hats I wear, my concerns and allegiances to what is best practice gets a bit muddled.

I say it’s professional discretion when it comes to not selecting certain AP books off the suggested read list.  Is this censoring? No. I’ve listened to my students and sensed they were not ready for Brave New World or 1984.  Am I saying they shouldn’t read it?  Not at all.  I’m saying I won’t be teaching it at this time, especially when there are so many other books to choose from.

I say it’s my parental obligation to protect my child from that which might be harmful to my child’s well-being.  Is this censoring?Certainly not. Every family, every parent has the right to choose best for what is best for them and their family.  Society can influence, yet families shape the future. I’m not banning; I’m protecting.

We are all gate-keepers in our own way.  We allow how wide the gate will swing open. Banned Book Week is officially over for another year. Or is it?  We are challenged daily when it comes to making decisions of discernment.  To ban, to censor, to act out of discernment–now, that, dear reader, is quite the question.

Banned Books Week Banner

Banned Books Week Banner (Photo credit: DML East Branch)

Continium of Encouragement to Read: BB Week #6

As a librarian at heart and an English teacher for career, with a side of writer squeezed in, I positively adore books. My blog is primarily about books and I keep a running list of unabashed Book Boosters.  Here is a slew of posters, banners, and stickers that encourage reading.  BtW: celebrate Banned Book Week with a good read, or maybe a bad read–it’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

BB Week Hits the Big Three-Oh: BB Week #5

ALA Seal

ALA Seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is something about hitting 30 that makes one sit up and say, “Okay, let’s get serious about this.”  Birthdays, marriages, and events take on that seriously, folks, tone.  And so it is with Banned Books Week.  This year marks its thirtieth and with that triple decade mark here are three commemorative aspects of BB Week.

1.  Did your state participate?  The American Library Association‘s Office for Intellectual Freedom coordinated a “50 State Salute.”  Check out the video and the following details to see how your state participated. For more information:

Banned Books Week Video Map: Click on a state to view the BB video

2.  Take a good look at the of the last thirty years to see what books were challenged, banned, or censored and for what reason.

BB Timeline

3.  For the second year in a row readers who know the value of being free to read [I call them Book Boosters (see the masthead link to sign up)] can promote the importance of reading by posting a two-minute video of yourself reading. These videos will be featured on a special  Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out YouTube channel. For details on how to create your reading video, click here.

Banned Books Week: The Need to Read–it’s about choice and having the right to make it

Bookmans, a bookstore in Arizona makes this clear in their BB Week video:

Burn and Turn: Censored and Challenged Books/BB Week #1

What have To Kill A Mockingbird, The Awakening, Huckleberry Finn, and The Hunger Games all have in common?  Easy. Besides making the bestsellers list, they have also made the banned books list. And let’s pause this opening for a bit of clarification. Banned Book Week is actually misleading, since books aren’t technically banned anymore–they are challenged, since we all have, at least in the US of A, the ability to procure what we want to read.

Banned Book Week is the annual emphasis that occurs during the last week of September, and serves as a reminder how society, during given points and times in history, get tweaked about what is available to read.  However, it is not only in the United States that books have created ire in the powers of say so.  Read Tweak happens around the world.  For instance:

Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland:  Used to be banned in the province of Hunan, China, beginning in 1931 for its portrayal of anthropomorphized animals acting on the same level of complexity as human beings. The censor General Ho Chien believed that attributing human language to animals was an insult to humans. He feared that the book would teach children to regard humans and animals on the same level, which would be “disastrous.”

Then again sometimes banning is not good enough–let’s just burn the bugger and totally purge society’s ability for intellectual discernment.  Burned books would include:

  • Ulysses, by James Joyce–Burned in the U.S. (1918)
  • The Grapes of Wrath, by John SteinbeckBurned by the East St. Louis, IL Public Library (1939)
  • The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway–Burned in Nazi bonfires in Germany (1933)
  • Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut–Burned in Drake, ND (1973)

Although there haven’t been any recent burnings, Ray Bradbury (rest in peace, Ray, you are missed) foresaw a day when all books would be burned. Not because of poisoned opinion, offended sensibilities, or societal outrage–no, Ray thought books would be burned due to lack of interest.  Intellectual thought via the printed page would be overridden by the quest of Jello entertainment(that ubiquitous substance which has form but no true nutrition and is quite similar to most television programming). In the near future Bradbury believed it would be illegal to own or read books so the government created a mockery out the fireman and had him burn books instead of saving that which would burn.  The paradox is stunningly brilliant, which is why Bradbury and his insights will be missed.

The book I refer to is, of course, Fahrenheit 451. The delicious and sad irony is that F451 was censored for its language in order for school districts to allow it on reading lists.

This week I will be posting views, trivia, and insights about banning, censoring, and challenging intellectual matter, because it does matter.

Banned Book Week.  Read a book and challenge your brain.

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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