Friday, September 25, 2009

I Thought a "Challenge" Was a Good Thing

Connotation is a beautiful thing, adding shades of meaning to our language. I love, for example, that the word cleave can be used to describe cutting something in twain or clinging to something or someone. Even though I accepted the label "discriminating reader" back in third grade, a yearbook inscription by my elementary school librarian, I know that in some ways I also read indiscriminately (perhaps in the way that Dylan Thomas described his own reading).

A student yesterday asked what kind of books I liked to read, and I didn't know where to begin. I ended up telling him that I usually preferred fiction--although I could look at my recent reading matter and find plenty of exceptions. From there, though, I branch off in so many directions. I don't read much fantasy--except. . . . To be honest, I just love books, and I was fortunate enough to have grown up in a family that loved books, with parents who trusted my choices.

As Banned Books Week approaches, I am reminded that not every young reader has the freedom I had. I also know that many English teachers have faced much more controversy than I have. The image of burning books--whether from Hitler's Germany or more recent Harry Potter hysteria--causes my stomach to churn. One of my soapbox speeches to my students runs a little like this: When you read, you have three choices: You can accept what you read, reject it or amend it. The truth with stand up to questioning.

Of course, I believe there are limits, and I believe parents have a right to exerting moral guidance over their own children. Book challenges in the school, however, are often misguided and ill-informed. A peek at the list of most frequently challenged books reads a little bit like my list of all-time favorites: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of a Young Girl, Catcher in the Rye, to name a few. So this week, not facing any challenges of my own, I think I may have to sit down and read something dangerous. Thank goodness I know where to find a good list.



Amber O said...


Glenda Council Beall said...

The banning of books such as To Kill a Mockingbird, is so ridiculous. Do you on what grounds they chose to ban this book?

Nancy said...

Book banning is usually part of a little uninformed mass hysteria or selective reading. In Mockingbird, parents have objected because of Mayella's rape, race issues, the nontraditional parenting of Atticus. All kinds of "scary stuff," eh?