Are banned books bad books?

I love to read and I will pretty much read anything (a few genres I won’t touch). The classics are my friends. Crime novels are a great way to get out of my own head for a bit. I like to read YA novels as I think about what my girls will be interested in when they are older. But what about banned books? Do I read those? Not all, but out of the “most banned books” I have read a high percentage of them. Are banned books bad books?


canceled red neon sign

WHAT REASONS ARE THERE FOR BANNING BOOKS?

There are a number of reasons for banning or challenging books. Not everyone is in agreement. The most common reasons why books are banned in the US are: 

  • violence
  • profanity
  • sexual content
  • racial issues
  • encouragement of “damaging” lifestyles (drugs and alcohol)
  • LGBTQIA+ content
  • presence of witchcraft or paganism
  • religious affiliations/viewpoints

banned book on fire

WHO BANS THE BOOKS?

Book bannings come from parents and community insistence and it varies from state to state or even within each state.

NUMBER ONE BANNED BOOK

This book has been banned multiple times over the years. If you don’t know the answer to it, it might surprise you……..1984 by George Orwell. Why? For its pro-communist and sexually explicit content. 

The top 10 most challenged books of all time:

  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I have read all of these – more than once!


stacks of books

CHILDREN’S BOOKS THAT HAVE BEEN BANNED OR CHALLENGED

Over the years there have been challenges and bans to a number of children’s books for a variety of reasons. Here are some that might surprise you. They all have a variety of reasons.

  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engel 
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • The Lorax by Dr Seuss
  • Hop on Pop by Dr Seuss
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss
  • Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  • The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  • Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • Captain Underpants Series by Dave Pilkey
  • Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park
  • Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Peterson
  • New Kid by Jerry Craft

books in a library

SHOULD WE READ BANNED BOOKS?

I do believe that we, as parents and guardians, have a responsibility to our children to make sure they are reading good literature. It’s up to us as parents and readers to be guides and help our children choose books and then help them process what they read.

But should we go about banning books left, right and center? Why can’t we just say “that is not a book for our family” and choose not to read it? Yes, I do think that there are controversial books out there and that there are people who would love to get them into unsuspecting hands. But I don’t think it is a nefarious plot to take over our libraries.

I agree that parents have the right to decide what material their children are exposed to and when but I also agree that we don’t have a right to restrict what books are available to other people.

Children want books that are relatable. When they can see themselves within a character, it can often help them through their life stage. When we limit these books we can hinder our children’s growth.


HOW TO GO ABOUT IT

When it comes to these books, if you choose to read them (remember, it is up to you!), use them as a discussion starter. I believe in teaching critical thinking skills and these books and discussions can help our children find their voice, their opinions and even values. 

I actually use all of our chapter books as discussion starters. We don’t shy away from age appropriate topics. I have a post on “should we read outdated books?” and the same holds here. Reading these books can help us look at sexism and racism, show how times have changed – along with people’s thinking and responses. We can talk about the cultural differences, both from a historical and locational aspect. There can be so many rich conversations from these books, if we allow them. As a parent I can share my thoughts and opinions, and I can help my children form their own. I don’t need them to parrot me – I need them to THINK. 

Will there be books I choose not to introduce my daughters to? Oh yes. But that doesn’t mean I should be telling others not to read them. 

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