a way to earn
a few dollars
or how to make doughnuts . . .
or kangaroo collars
. . .
SO . . .
that’s why I tell you
to keep your eyes wide
keep them wide open . . .
at least on one side.
from I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!
written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
Random House, Inc. 1978
I decided to read Blubber by Judy Blume for my personal celebration of Banned Book Week this year. When the book was published in 1978, I was in my mid-twenties with two small children. It’s been on my list ever since and finally made it to the top.
Blubber is the story of a girl who was teased, then bullied, for being fat. It is also about another girl, the main character, who didn’t really participate in the bullying, but stood in the periphery not trying to stop it, either. Until she, herself, became the bullies’ target.
Censorship has probably always taken place, but in since about 1980s, it became accepted, in some circles. Kinda like Jill, the main character in Blubber, most everyone stood complacently by as book after book was banned or challenged by some teacher or some school system or some (well-meaning?) parent. Suddenly and increasingly, adults decided not only what their own children could not read, some adults thought it necessary to decide what *all* children could not read.
Banned Book Week has been held during the last week in September since 1982. The American Library Association calls attention to books that are challenged by schools, parents, and other gate-keepers who want to allow us (okay, mostly children) to read only what is deemed wholesome, gratifying, appropriate . . .
So who really decides? And what are the criteria for choosing a book to ban?
According to the American Library Association’s website, “The year 2017 saw an increase in censorship attempts and a revitalized effort to remove books from communal shelves to avoid controversy.” http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/NLW-Top10 Sometimes without even following their own policy.
Most censorship involves preventing kids from learning about sex. Fiction and non-fiction titles are included in lists. Even the American Heritage Dictionary! That was allowed to stay on the shelf. Some are. Many more are not out-and-out banned, but restricted. A parent or guardian’s okay is required for a child to read a particular book.
A quick Google search (remember last week?) showed me a list of several books and gave reasons why they were banned and by whom. Many are classics. Most are award-winners. All have children or teens as main characters. You can find the Huffington Post’s report here:
And just for fun, Barnes and Nobel posted this on their blog recently: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/11-books-that-were-banned-for-completely-ridiculous-reasons/
Judy Blume said “Censors don’t want children exposed to ideas different from their own. If every individual with an agenda had his/her way, the shelves in the school library would be close to empty.” And this: “Having the freedom to read and the freedom to choose is one of the best gifts my parents ever gave me.”
So pick a list, pick a book, pour something hot, cold, or bubbly and enjoy a good book! And don’t forget to thank a librarian!