Close 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.
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.
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
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…