Tag Archives: banned books

Let Them Read It

I’ve recently been in several discussions about books for middle and high schoolers where people have shied away from reading about “difficult” topics. No violence, no romance, no abusive characters, no murders, no controversy.

Sometimes the kids in question are apparently sensitive. Other times, covering difficult topics is against the family philosophy, at least until the kids are ready for it.

The problem is, by the time they get to high school, they need to be ready for it.

Kids in high school should be headed toward joining that “great conversation” about the world’s great works of literature. Or, at the very least, toward understanding the world around them, including its history, and being able to grapple with questions about the darker side of human nature. How are they supposed to do that if you don’t ever read about love or hatred? How are they supposed to understand history if they can’t read about the Holocaust or the Cultural Revolution or the Civil War?

Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it isn’t just a nice saying. It’s actually true that if we don’t understand these things at all, we are likely to repeat their mistakes. High school is the last bit of compulsory schooling before kids head off into the world. Hopefully they pursue higher education, but then high school has to prepare them for that.

A college professor told me recently about students she had in class who had never heard of Jim Crow laws. Because they were relevant to the topics they were doing, she provided them with some background readings when she realized this gap in their education. Several students accused her of making it up.

If students are taught a sanitized version of history all through their formative years, they’re going to struggle to understand the complexities of the world later on. It’s that simple. Your high schoolers are nearly adults. It doesn’t mean you should constantly push the worst horrors of history on them, but it does mean that they need to be ready to deal with some of them. Don’t assume they can’t handle a gentler dose in middle school either. There are amazing middle grades novels about difficult periods of history. These are books that are written for ten, eleven, and twelve year-olds specifically about difficult topics.

I plead with you as parents. Teach the Holocaust. Teach the Rape of Nanjing. Teach the horrors of trench warfare. Teach the realities of slavery. Teach the legacy of racism and colonialism. Teach the realities of abuse and oppression through stories of people who deal with it and persevere or overcome. Your teens deserve to know this stuff so they can be good global citizens. Let them grow up and understand the world in a deeper way.

Happiness is… Clearing my Google Reader

With Mushroom and BalletBoy’s birthday last week and an emergency turn at hosting co-op, I got quite behind on many things.  If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you might not have noticed.  I often blog ahead and schedule posts.  However, I noticed!  I have been feeling behind and unable to catch up on a number of things.  Most emblematic was the fact that there were hundreds (and hundreds) of unread things in my blog reader.  For some reason, I had gotten most behind on the book blogs.  I read so many of them and I hate to delete the posts when I get behind (as I’ve been known to do for the local blogs I read).  Now, they’ve all been cleared and a weight has lifted!

Some things I learned/remembered as I read through the blogosphere:

Banned Books Week 2010 Logo

First, last week was Banned Books Week.  I feel awfully remiss that I didn’t post anything about it.  Censorship is a topic dear to my heart.  There were a lot of great banned book graphics floating around as well, such as the one from the ALA that I put just above here.  Finding Wonderland had a great roundup of various Banned Book Week posts and news.  The Goddess of YA Literature had a post about how censorship comes in the form of internet filters in libraries these days and how damaging that can be for people who rely on the library for their internet access.

Next, the nominations for the Cybils are open!  You don’t need to be a book blogger to nominate a book either.  Anyone is eligible.  If you (or your kids) read a book published in the last year that you think is excellent, head over here to nominate it, but do it soon since nominations close in mid-October.  Read their nomination rules, but it’s a very simple process.  It took me all of a whole minute to nominate a couple of books.  Keep in mind you’ll need the 13 digit ISBN number, but that’s easily cut and pasted from Amazon.  It’s on that list of data they show you that includes the publication date and the page count of the book.

Finally, I remembered that sometimes my fellow bloggers post questions that make me think.  Over at one of my favorite blogs, Angieville, she posted an excellent question about “Make me feel better books.”  These are the books that you can read over and over to warm your soul when it needs it.  For me, a couple of titles come to mind.  One is this blog’s namesake, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.  I was recently under the weather and wanted to reread a bit of it and found I loaned it to someone and can’t find it.  Something about that coming of age story in its diary format with its excellently old-fashioned feel just speaks right into my heart every time and I identify with Cassandra so closely.  Second, Robin McKinley’s book The Blue Sword is one that I return to again and again.  I think the most comforting aspect of it is how well I know it.  My beat up copy was soaked accidentally in lemonade at age 12, so the fist few pages are extra crinkly and yellow.  Harry is like an old friend.  I can let my eyes fall on any sentence and know so well what comes next that I don’t really need to read it, but I do.