Monday, September 20, 2010

Speak Loudly

I was going to blog about something different today, but in honor of the upcoming ALA Banned Books Week (Sept. 25-Oct. 2) and all the buzz surrounding Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel Speak and the controversial article by Wesley Scroggins, I decided to write a brief post with my thoughts.

My thoughts are simple and straightforward: BANNING BOOKS IS A BAD IDEA.

Why? Banning a book that explores controversial topics doesn’t protect children; it hinders their growth, maturity and knowledge. We learn things through thought and discussion; without acknowledging a matter, we’re essentially erasing it.  And, simply put, that’s no good. 

Although many books have, and will, face a challenge, I’m going to focus on Speak for the moment.  I was lucky enough to read Speak as part of my required summer reading one year in high school.  Yes, it’s true I remember that my mom was surprised when the narrator’s quirky voice disclosed that she had been raped.  But my sensible mom didn’t have any problem with me reading it.  Why? Because as scary as the topic of rape is, it’s a subject many girls and women have to face…how can they face it alone, in silence? Laurie Halse Anderson is offering them support and speaking up for what is right.  How can you possible ban that idea? (And the fact that Scroggins objects to Speak because he says the rape scenes are soft porn isn’t something I’m even going to delve into…)

Contemporary books like Speak aren’t the only ones threatened- in many schools classics such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin, Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird are no longer on high school reading lists because someone found them to contain undesirable material. Slaughterhouse Five, Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men and many others have also been challenged throughout their publication history.  My closest encounter with a book being challenged occurred when my entire church youth group was given The Color Purple; several parents spoke up strongly and forbade their children from reading the novel.

Yet, banning a book to protect children from reading strong language or about rape, race relationships, religion (or lack thereof) and sexuality isn’t the answer.  Can’t we sit down and discuss these topics, perhaps even after reading the book that brings up the topic? That seems like the perfect place for a high school teacher or parent to step in.  Let children explore and learn; it’s perfectly alright to aid and guide them along the way, but don’t hush up the truth.

In honor of Banned Book Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read, read a banned or challenged book. Check out #SpeakLoudly on Twitter.  And actually speak.  Silence isn’t the answer.

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