Banned Books and Children
Written by
Susan Bearman
September 2011
Written by
Susan Bearman
September 2011

I was doing a little research for a post on Banned Books Week (BBW), which we are observing this week, thanks to the efforts of the American Library Association (ALA) and the other sponsors. The first thought that struck me (once I got past the idea that people are still trying to ban books) is that librarians are heros. 


ALA states that BBW "highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States." That's a pretty heroic endeavor.


My next thought was the absurdity of the titles on the Top 100 most banned/challenged books of the decade. While I don't love Captain Underpants, I know many a little boy who started to like reading because of Dav Pilkey. As my brother (who is long past the little boy stage) keeps reminding me, "underpants" is way funnier than "underwear". 


But when I really looked at the list, the number of stunning, must-read children's and YA books on the list sent an icy spike into my heart. Where would I be — where would my children be — if we had never met the characters in:


  • The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  • Forever; Blubber; and Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret, all by Judy Blume
  • Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  • To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  • The Giver, by Lois Lowry
  • My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
  • Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
  • Black Boy, by Richard Wright
  • A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
  • Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George

Those titles all made the top 100, along with series like Harry Potter; Scary Stories (Schwartz); His Dark Materials (Pullman); Gossip Girl (von Ziegesar); The Stupids (Allard); Junie B. Jones (Park); Goosebumps (Stine). 


While I'm not claiming these all represent great children's literature, the shear number of children's/YA books on the list is staggering. And great or not, I don't want any of them banned. I'm perfectly capable of helping my children make good decisions about reading when they need help. It's been my experience that the more they read (good and bad), the more discerning they become as readers. Win-win.


But I guess the banned book that really kicked me in the teeth was It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris, one of two books (along with Where Did I Come From by Peter Mayle) that helped me explain sex to six children without my head exploding or sending them into therapy. That's the great thing about parenting and books: when I run into trouble with the former, I can usually find help in the latter. 


What is your favorite banned/challenged book? How will you, as a writer, celebrate this week?

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