Monday, September 27, 2010

What do two penguins, a light bulb and a sweet, juicy fruit have in common?

Banned Books week started Sunday, and with it has come a wave of what my husband would call jackassery.

Did you know Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic was challenged in a public library because it "glorified Satan, suicide and cannibalism?" I read that on one of the lists I’ve seen today online. Did you know that Roald Dahl's classic James and the Giant Peach promotes drug use? Here’s one of my personal favorites on the list for 2010 – It is a picture book called And Tango Makes Three about two penguins who adopt a baby penguin. The two adults happen to both be male, so somebody somewhere decided that it was inappropriate for children. Yikes. Boy penguins raise a chick! I’m shocked!

Of the top 10 most challenged books in the list for 2010, 8 of them were described as being “sexually explicit.”

I got news for you, folks: Kids know about sex. Certainly teens know about it. (Shhhh. I think they might even know how to DO it!) Is there a time and a place where a parent and child could/should decide to wait to read a story? Absolutely! Might some topics or subject matters in fiction be misunderstood by an audience? Sure. Is there language written in novels that I don’t want spoken aloud in my home? You betcha!

But here’s the rub: I want to choose. I want to be the one to say, “No thanks, I’ll have my kid wait on that one.” Or maybe say, “OK, kiddo – you can read it, but let’s talk about it too, ok?” For me – for my children—for my friends, neighbors, family and strangers I might bump into when crossing the street. I want us all to have the freedom to read whatever we want, whenever we want and to help the young people in our lives read carefully, read with intent, read for pleasure (of course) and read to understand. I want my children to read tough stories and TALK about them with someone they trust.

I’ve said it before in some comments on other blogs this week: pay attention to what your kids are reading. Read it with them. Talk about the stories – whether they are “sexually explicit” or encourage them to break dishes instead of clean up (another crazy reason Silverstein has been challenged). 

Shocking, I know … but sometimes reality confronts us with language we don’t like or situations we think are offensive. Wouldn’t you like to talk to your child about those things as encountered in a story before little Billy or Mary Jane encounters them face to face? Wouldn’t you like to give your kids tools to help confront racism in their school because you’ve read and talked about To Kill a Mockingbird or Huck Finn together?

Freedom. Freadom. Pay attention.


  1. Silverstein glorified Satan, suicide and cannibalism? Wha?? Love "freedom = fREADom" Excellent post!

  2. Loved this post, Karen! The whole concept of banning books is ludicrous to me as it is, but I was just looking at the 10 most challenged titles over at and it really made me laugh. I mean, if someone is going to say that Twilight is sexually explicit (which it's not) and that there is a religious viewpoint (which there isn't except for the fact that the author is Mormon, not the characters), then wouldn't it be safe to say that every single book in the entire universe could be banned for one reason or another?