Book banning and censorship is nothing new. People throughout history have attempted to keep others from reading books by burning, banning, and censoring all forms of writing. In today’s society, the problem of book banning is most prevalent in schools and classrooms (“Book Banning”). Often faculty, librarians, or parents restrict the books in a school’s library because of personal objections to them. One person’s opinion on whether a book is appropriate for certain age group should not be able to influence whether all other children can have the opportunity to read it.
ALTERNATIVE TO BOOK BANNING One cannot deny that some books written for a younger audience are not suitable for certain all age groups. A book that is appropriate for a fifth grader is not appropriate for a first grader. Regardless of someone’s personal opinion on what age group that book is appropriate for, he/she does not have the right to ban that book because he/she feels it is unsuitable. A possible solution to this problem would be to notify the parents of a student who checks out a book considered unsuitable to their age group. This allows the parent to make the judgment call on whether or not they should allow his/her child to be subjected to content that is not age appropriate.
The parent can then read the book himself or herself, research why the book is unsuitable to his/her child’s age group, or trust the librarian’s opinion and then make his/her decision. This ensures that no parent or librarian is forcing his or her opinion on others, and the choice is on a case-by-case basis and at parental discretion. In April of 2013, the District 41 school board in Illinois had banned The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky from eighth grade classrooms at Hadley Junior High School after a parent filed a formal request because of the book’s sexually explicit content and language. The school board’s ruling was later overturned after the school assured the members of the school board that a revised “parental notification letter” would be sent out at the beginning of every school year. The letter would help to make the parents aware of the books their child could read with mature content.
If a parent makes the decision that his/her child should not read one of these books, his/her child does not have to. Erica Nelson, one of the board members says in reference to the book ban that, “ultimately it’s parents’ responsibility” (Placek). Hadley Junior High School’s solution to the banning of The Perks of Being a Wallflower shows an alternative for book banning. Also, when parents are protesting to ban a book, it may cause unintended side effects. The daughter of the parents who initially had Perks of Being a Wallflower banned in Hadley Junior High School was said to have been bullied by students upset over the ban (Placek).
Another side effect is the “forbidden fruit effect.” Unknowingly, by banning a book, parents may be causing more students to read the book so as to figure out why it is being challenged because of the “forbidden fruit effect,” sales and circulation tend to increase (Trelease). PARENT CENSORSHIP Most often, censorship of books, in the form of book banning, is done by parents. Parents most often challenge books for sexually explicit content, offensive language, and if they feel a book is unsuitable for a specific age group (“Book Challenges”). Most parents want what is best for their kids, but each parent has a different idea of what that is.
One parent or small group of parents should not be able to determine whether a large group of children should be allowed to read a book. All children should be provided the opportunity to read a wide variety of books. If a specific parent objects to the content in a book, he/she may restrict his/her child from reading it, but not the rest of the school. One of the most commonly challenged books is And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson. It tells the true story of two male penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo who successfully hatched an egg.
Parents have objected to it for its’ homosexual themes, making it the fifth most banned booked in 2012 (Grinberg). Although the story the book tells is true and the characters are not anthropomorphized, parents still feel strongly enough so as to not allow any kids in a specific school to read it. Completely disregarding the positive attributes of this book, parents infringe upon the rights of the other students by not giving them the opportunity to read it. One parent should not have the power to decide for a whole group of children that they should not read And Tango Makes Three he/she should only be able to make that decision for his/her child. LIBRARIAN CENSORSHIP The stealthiest form of book censorship is by librarians.
Librarians may sometimes choose not to put a certain book on their shelves for fear of upsetting faculty, parents, and students. Librarians also may not put a book on their shelves because of personal objections to it. A librarian’s job is to choose a wide range of books that best suit the curriculum and meet the needs of the students. While that may require a judgment call, it becomes censorship when they “reject a book just because of its subject matter or if you think that it would cause you some problems” (Whelan). In response to why libraries should stock a book like 50 Shades of Gray, Loriene Roy, former president of the American Library Association and founder of the National Reading Club for American Indian Students, explained that if a book is on a bestsellers list, a librarian might get a copy because they know that more people may want to read it and that does not force everybody to read it but they should at least provide access to it.
Although 50 Shades of Gray may seem completely illogical to put in a school library, the same general idea can be applied to school’s libraries. She adds, “Just because one person finds something objectionable, does not mean they have the right to restrict access that other people- other parents and other children should have access to.” (“Could Banning Books “). INDIVIDUAL CENSORSHIP Everyone has a choice. A student can personally censor what he or she reads.
Val Ross uses an Icelandic legend as an example of this. The legend tells a story of three boys who go searching for a book of magic, and when they find it one boy stops himself from finishing reading it because he believed if he continued he would have “lost his soul to the devil” (Ross). Though this example may seem extreme, it is similar to today in that we all have the power to choose to stop reading. Children in school have the choice to stop reading a book they checked out from the library if it makes them uncomfortable, but that book may not make all children uncomfortable. Robert P.
Doyle, author of the list “Books Challenged and Banned in 2010–11,” explains, “Individuals may restrict what they themselves or their children read, but they must not call on governmental or public agencies to prevent others from reading or seeing that material.” That is why at least providing the access to these books and not banning them all together is very important. CONCLUSION People only have the right to persuade others to their own point of view not force their opinion on others. The individual is the only one with the right to censor what he reads. Librarians do not have the right to censor books, and neither do the parents of another child.
While some books may not be fit for certain age groups, that is not for one group of people to decide for a larger group of people. Book banning is very prevalent in today’s society and is not going to be suppressed anytime soon. As said by Benjamin Franklin, “If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.” A book is never going to please everyone, especially one with objectionable content, but the opportunity must be provided for students to read it. The decision to read it or not is left to the student and his/her parent’s discretion. Works Cited “Book Banning.
” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection. Detroit: Gale, 2012. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 17 Jan.
2014. “Book Challenges.” Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Detroit: Gale, 2010.Opposing Viewpoints in Context.
Web. 6 Jan. 2014. “Could Banning Books Actually Encourage More Readers?” Tell Me More 20 Sept. 2013. Opposing Viewpoints in Context.
Web. 6 Jan. 2014. Grinberg, Emanuella. “Banned Books Week: ‘Captain Underpants’ Tops List of Challenged Books.” CNN.
Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 15 Jan. 2014. Placek, Christoper.
“Controversial book headed back to Glen Ellyn District 41 library shelves.” Daily Herald. Paddock Publications, 11 June 2013. Web. 15 January 2014.
Ross, Val. “Individuals Should Make Their Own Decisions about Censored Books.”You Can’t Read This: Forbidden Books, Lost Writing, Mistranslations & Codes. Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2006. 67-72. Rpt.
in Book Banning. Ed. Ronnie D. Lankford. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2007. At Issue.
Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 6 Jan. 2014. Trelease, Jim. “Book Banning Violates Children and Young Adult Freedoms.
” Book Banning. Ed. Ronnie D. Lankford. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2007. At Issue.
Rpt. from “Censorship and Children’s Books.” Trelease-on-Reading.com. 2006.Opposing Viewpoints in Context.
Web. 6 Jan. 2014. Whelan, Debra Lau. “Books Are Being Banned in the United States.” Censorship.
Ed. Byron L. Stay. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1997. Opposing Viewpoints.
Rpt. from “A Dirty Little Secret: Self-Censorship.” School Library Journal (1 Feb. 2009).Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web.
6 Jan. 2014.