Banned Books? Seriously?

This week is Banned Books Week. I will admit, I always find the idea of banned books ridiculous. Here we have a legion of kids who we are trying to get reading and what happens – books get banned! In some ways, it’s the best thing for them – perhaps more people will read them to figure out what’s so wrong about them. But banning books just seems so very wrong.

I teach. With that job, I make decisions that will impact students daily. However, within these decisions, there is still choice and there is still freedom. Students are given the time to work on something  – the decision is made to assign work. If they do not do it, they have decided that they would rather choose the negative consequences of not doing work over the positive consequences of having their work done. If I assign a book, students choose if they will read it or not, thus making that positive vs negative consequence choice again. And further to that, if I assign a book and they read it, they will make decisions about how they feel about the book – did they like it, did they hate it, was it believable, did they agree with the theme – so many decisions happen, just by reading a book.

To be fair, when I was in the library, there were a couple books I did not put out, even though I purchased them. One book, very detailed about suicide methods, I debated internally and then got advice from the Guidance Councillor. She got advice from the board Educational Psychologist. We determined that due to school climate, it might not be a good idea to put out, however, I could put it in the catalogue for those searching for a book. This was to have a conversation with the person checking it out, just to gauge some of their reasoning behind their interest. This was not an easily made decision, but it was one that we felt kept choice in the hands of the students.

So, if I ban books, I’m taking that choice away. I’m saying that they can’t be trusted to make up their mind about an issue and that they are not strong enough to resist the messages of that book. There’s magic? Obviously the child reader is not strong enough to resist devil worship (even if the devil isn’t mentioned at all). There’s sex? Well, when will we hold the baby shower as they will obviously be pregnant with twins within minutes of reading it. There’s “alternative lifestyles”. Road to heck, seriously, the road to heck. However, if I let a child read a book that may contain what some deem “questionable themes”, I’m letting them explore the world. They might learn about something more than I could ever teach – how friendship can help save the day. How love is love, no matter the gender. How hate can win if you let it – but here’s how to stop it. Books can bring you the world – you just have to be ready to explore.

Plus, who’s to say that things I feel are wrong are wrong for everyone? Who’s to say that what I don’t like to read because I disagree with it won’t open up the eyes and mind of a child? I applaud not making anti-Holocaust materials available from retailers, but for the child that is doing research, that move is one that limits their ability to see both sides. We can only trust that they know enough to come out on the side of right – the Holocaust did happen (and genocide continues to happen)  – but they won’t be able to understand the personal side of it all if we keep it from them.

According to the ALA, the top ten banned books of 2013 are:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
    Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
    Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

‘Captain Underpants’ has done so much for literacy, especially in hard to reach boys. ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian’ is a great way to introduce issues in First Nations studies. ‘The Hunger Games’ has no religion in it (maybe that’s the issue!). ‘Looking for Alaska’ and  ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ tell of teenage life, perhaps dramatizing it a little, but show a specific journey people take at  that point in their lives. None of these books are banned for being poorly written. I would guess most are banned because the complainant didn’t read it before their child did and are mad about them getting a hold of it.

If you don’t want your child to read something, don’t let them. Discuss it with them and determine what they have to do, maturity wise, to read a book. Give them lessons in history and context and allow them to apply those as they approach their reading. Talk to them about communication and encourage them to ask questions as they read. Have a read-a-long with them so you know what they’re doing. Be prepared to tell them a book is a little too mature for them and explain what that means. Communicate. Don’t ban. Allow them to choose and help them develop their ability to choose well. They’re the ones who will be making those choices in the future and we need to make sure that it’s a skill they have.

And with that, 19 Banned Books with redone titles, just to make them a little more palatable.

 

 

Overdrive

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Checking out a book through overdrive.

I use Kobo for a lot of my e-reading. However, sometimes I realize that I am spending all kinds of money on ebooks. Sometimes lots of money, money that could go elsewhere. Plus, I like supporting librarians and libraries (seeing as I spent so much time as a librarian and in a library). So I use ‘Overdrive’, an app that allows me to check out books from the public library as ebooks. It’s quick, easy and all I need is a library card from my public library.

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Search results for term “John Green”

Once you set up the library in the app (you choose the library you want to access, theoretically, if you have access to a number of libraries that use overdrive, you could choose from them all). You can choose your category (fiction, non fiction, teen fiction, etc) and then see what there is to check out. You can choose to see just what’s available now, if you’re looking for something to read now, or you can see all that’s being offered, if you’re looking for something specific. You can also search for a specific title or author. In addition, overdrive will feature their most popular titles on the front page, as well as popular titles in specific categories.

I find I usually go into the teen fiction section. Then I choose to look at available titles only and pick some books that I wouldn’t have thought of. This means that I get to read books that I may not have thought of had I relied on just Kobo. I select the title and then choose borrow (I can also choose sample, more or wishlist). If I chose sample, I would have been brought to a sample of the book,Checking out books

Checking out books

more takes me to a description of the book with the opportunity to choose all those items and wishlist adds the book to a list that overdrive keeps of wishes of mine. Once I choose checkout, I’m taken to a page to type in my library card number and my PIN. You need to set those up through your public library. Then, when that info is in, you choose to down load the book to read in your browser and boom! You have a book borrowed from the library for 14 days. Yay!

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Putting a book on hold.

But what if they list the book you want but someone else has it? Those cads! You can put it on hold. Essentially, where it normally says borrow you can choose to put it on hold. You put in your e-mail address and overdrive will e-mail you when the book is ready. You have to check it out fairly quickly or you lose your claim on the file. So, this won’t work if you already have your limit on books checked out. But it does work if you want a book and are willing to wait for it – and return other books if it means having space to check that one out.

You can play with the settings and chance your checkout times from 7 to 14 days. You can check out pdfs, ebooks and audio books. You can read the books in the app. If you don’t return the book, it returns automatically.  It’s all fantastic.

Well, except for one point. Publishers do not always make books available to libraries and overdrive. Their fear is that they’ll lose out on money as you don’t need to replace ebooks. At times, they’ll make it so an ebook can be checked out a limited amount of times, but most others make it so that their books are not available. Not cool publishers. Not cool. So, if there’s a book you really want to eread and the library doesn’t have it (to borrow or to put on hold), you may just have to buy it. However, if it has the books you want, overdrive is a great alternative to spending the money and helps you support your local library while you do it! Win-win-win!

The images of overdrive were taken on my ipad. I use the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Library (NLPL) as my library of choice.

Excellent quote on why I feel no shame reading a lot of YA lit

Some say it’s the elements of hope and wonder in children’s books that make them special. But there are many dark young adult novels these days. Adults loved Harry Potter, though it was written for the young. In the end, it is probably up to the reader of any age to decide if this book is for him or her.
Katherine Paterson

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/k/katherinep526507.html

The ways of reading

For many years I was a book traditionalist. I refused to try ereading and looked at those who did as people who obviously did not really enjoy the reading process. I. Was. Wrong.

As an asthmatic who is allergic to dust, the time came when I had to examine what I was doing. I had piles and piles and shelves and shelves of novels. I couldn’t add any books to my book room: the place was full. I had to make the decision- keep with traditional reading and dust or try ereading and perhaps save money on inhalers.

So I did it. I tried ereading. And now, I can’t stop. It’s frustrating to read books now in paper format. I still do, of course, for committee work and when I have no other options, but I do take pictures of books at the book store and then download them. I use them in the classroom all the time, putting them on whiteboard and showing notes I’ve made on them. I check out books from the library in electronic format and I spend a fortune on ebooks, something I’m trying to curb.

So, what makes an e-reader right for you? I use the Kobo app on my ipad and use overdrive when I borrow books, but others I know use different apps and different actual readers. To know what you want you need to know what you like. My son likes the feeling of turning pages and so he’s fighting the idea of using an e-reader. A friend of mine likes being able to read whatever she likes without people knowing what she’s reading, so she loves e-readers. To know what’s right for you you need to what you like about reading. Me, I like getting books as soon as I notice they’re out and I like being able to travel with my books, whether it’s to work or to another part of the country.

In the next few weeks I’ll be reviewing different ereading apps. Sometimes making a change requires a little info and a little self knowledge.