On Not Reading…

PupandHarryClose your eyes.  Imagine your favorite reading spot and your favorite books.  What sights do you see?  What sounds to you hear? What books do you read?

For me, I am curled up under a blanket.  I have my corgi snoozing near me and a fully charged Kindle and a stack of books near me.

Banned and Challenged Books

What are challenged or banned books?  They are books that someone thinks should be removed from libraries and classrooms for one reason or another.  People may object to offensive language, sexually explicit scenes, drug/alcohol use, or any of a wide range of things.

Courtesy CC License - mySAPL
Courtesy CC License – mySAPL

Should books be removed from libraries and classrooms because someone objects to them?  Absolutely not.  I believe that children and teens have the right to read books that connect with them, speak to them, or they enjoy.

I do think that families may have beliefs that conflict with a particular book.  I think that if parents feel strongly that their student shouldn’t read a particular book, we should work to accommodate that wish.  We also should help parents understand why we have selected a particular book for required reading.  (Don’t forget though, I don’t know that “required” reading should be assigned!)

The American Library Association has graciously but together this list of the top 10 challenged books of 2014.  From this list, I have only read The Kite Runner and A Stolen Life.  However, I’ve added quite a few to my To Be Read list including: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, And Tango Makes Three, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  These are all books that I have seen talked about on my classmate’s blogs and the kid-lit-o-sphere.


Did you know there is also a phenomenon that is quietly keeping books out of the hands of teens?  It is a phenomenon called self-censorship.  As discussed in this School Library Journal article, self-censorship is when English teachers and librarians do not read or buy books based on their content.  In effect, censoring what we read.  This, in turn, keeps books off of shelves and out of student hands.

Courtesy CC License - Nicola Albertini
Courtesy CC License – Nicola Albertini

Do I self-censor?  Absolutely.  I have my comfort zones and my stretch zones too.  There are types of books I won’t read because I typically dislike them or I am uncomfortable with their content.  That isn’t fair to my students.

How can I work to be sure that my students have every opportunity to find a book that speaks to them? That is where reading outside of my comfort zone comes in.  This amazing article explains why we should read outside our comfort zones – to make us better readers, better writers, and, most importantly, better teachers.

How To Fix It
Courtesy CC License - Tim Lang
Courtesy CC License – Tim Lang

What’s my plan?  I am starting this plan by looking at my comfort zones and my stretch zones.

My Comfort Zones:  mysteries, adventure stories with a mythological component, forensic mysteries, familiar tales told from another perspective, dystopia

My Stretch Zones:  books with a lot of cuss words for no reason, books with violence – especially sexual violence, sci-fi, paranormal

My Plan – I will continue throughout this semester to complete the Book Bingo challenge and read books that are diverse.  I do not want to read the same book twice.  I will go out of my way to choose books that I might not pick up otherwise.  Finally, I will get recommendations from my classmates (who rock, by the way)!

Do you self-censor?  How do you feel about banned books?  What should I read that is in (or outside of) my Stretch Zone?  Let’s talk below…

20 thoughts on “On Not Reading…

  1. The comments have been so interesting here! I know we all self-censor to some degree. There are a lot of topics I just plain don’t want to read about (and YA lit contains all of them!). That said, even though I don’t want to read those books, I want to be sure I have them available for my students and that I’m knowledgeable enough to book talk. Books have an undeniable therapeutic value, especially to teen readers, I would argue. There is also a strong vicarious experience value in reading: I’m pretty sure I’m not the only reader who was WAY too scared to ever touch a drug after reading Go Ask Alice, LOL.


    1. Do I need to put Go Ask Alice on my TBR list?
      I agree – we can experience things we might never experience (good or bad) through reading. That is one of the best benefits of reading – getting immersed in a world that is different than your own and experiencing something you might not otherwise experience.


  2. I completely agree with you that books should not be banned because of the content that is in them. If parents are concerned about what is being read by their students they should consult with the teacher, and the requests can be made. However, I do believe that students need to have the exposure of what is out their in there for them.


  3. I absolutely self-censor! I hadn’t ever really thought about it until this week, but I am definitely guilty of doing so. I have a tendency to only read within my comfort zone and not move far from it, but that is something that I am working on. 🙂 I agree with your point that books shouldn’t be removed from libraries and classrooms just because some people don’t agree with their content. Sometimes the books that are challenged are the ones that can honestly help your students. I never want to take away a learning experience from a child because they have the right to read whatever they want to (as long as they have their parent’s permission). Great post!!


    1. Thanks! I certainly struggle to stretch my comfort zone. I like the book bingo we are using. I’ve also done Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge which challenges me to read various genres. Have you seen the Read Harder challenge?


  4. I self censor, and I am not ashamed of this. I am a picky reader. I do however see the benefits of stretching outside my zone. I am still on the fence between my personal values and what some books promote. I am against formal censorship and its destruction of freedom of speech. However, I am unwilling to give up my freedoms to recommend something I disagree with. I would not want to discourage someone from reading what they enjoy, nor would I be willing to promote that which goes against my beliefs.
    WOW, I just read that ^ and I sure sound like a whiner. Pardon me while I sort my thoughts while everyone watches. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are not a whiner – you sound like a person who knows what their convictions are and you stick to them.
      It really seems like self-censoring is a phenomenon that comes with practice reading and wisdom. I think it comes from knowing ourselves, the things we enjoy, the things that make us uncomfortable, and the things that are off-limits to us. I certainly think there are books for me and books that are not for me. I do think that, however, as a future English teacher, I have a responsibility to at least be knowledgeable about most books my students would be interested in. I don’t think I have to read every book out there (and goodness knows I don’t have time for that!), but I need to be familiar with it enough to point students in the right direction. <–Does that make sense? Guess I'm working this all out too! 🙂


      1. I think it is where I am going too.
        Should I, as an educator, opt to NOT read something that a student is reading?
        So many good and difficult questions!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I self-censor as well and am not ashamed of it. I am very careful of what I read because some books go against my morals and I personally don’t want to fill my head with content that I don’t agree with. I also struggle with the unwillingness to promote books that go against my belief. I firmly believe everyone should have the right to read whatever they want but we also have the right not to read books we are uncomfortable with. It might expand us as readers but I’m not willing to sacrifice my personal values so I can be considered a more well rounded reader. I’m not going to impose those values on my students but I am going to be honest with them when recommending books.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think that being honest with our students is essential. There are books that we will not recommend (and will not read) because it goes against our beliefs. We should get to exercise our right to not read too!


  5. I do self-censor. With much embarrassment I think back to when I started as a librarian a few years back, we live in a highly Catholic area and I was concerned about a variety of books that I felt some parents would object to. I tended to select books that were more conservative, a form of censorship, you bet…. Do I think students need to have exposure to other books, absolutely. I really feel a strong policy for books needs to be in place to avoid or reduce confrontations.


    1. What type of policy would you, as a librarian, want?
      I think my biggest thing is that I work at a middle school and I don’t want students to read something that they are not ready for. But, I don’t think I can ever know what another person is “ready for”!


      1. That’s what makes it so hard and complicated. I struggle with it even with my own daughters…. So far I really keep away from having books in my classroom that I am uncomfortable with. If I wouldn’t let my daughters read it, then it is probably not on my shelf. I have had a 7th grade student grab a book DNS ask me about it. I simply said it might be more geared towards slightly older kids, but they could have their parent preview if they thought they might want to read it. So far this has worked….that’s not to say it always will.


      2. I am not sure what type of classroom policy I would want. I don’t want to keep books from kids, but middle school kids develop, mature, and are ready for a vast array of things! It really feels like such an objective decision. I know a couple of English teachers who have a reserve of books they only recommend once they know a student and the family.

        Liked by 1 person

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