BBW 2011: Requiring Banned/Challenged Books in School?

~~Banned Books Week (BBW) 2011 takes place September 24th-October 1st~~

Required reading.

It is something every American high school student knows well. I am unaware how native language classes work in other countries, but English classes in America most often focus on reading over grammar–something I never liked. And if my own high school experience was pretty normal in comparison to all other Americans, I’m not the only one who had 1 or 2 books required each year I took an English class in high school.

One thing I find very interesting about my past experience with required reading in high school is that most of the books required of me are often challenged/banned, according to the ALA. Here are some books that were required for me as high school reading:

  • The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
And, upon looking through the list, I realized there were other books that were “required reading” for me at an even younger age. Of course, I didn’t really think of them as “required reading” when I was in elementary school. But we did read books as a class from 3rd grade on, so here are some books I remember reading for school and the grade (I think) I read them in:
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London (8th grade)
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (3rd or 4th grade)
  • The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (4th grade)
  • The Witches by Roald Dahl (3rd grade)
  • the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (4th grade)
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
These last three are books that were actually read to me by my teachers!
And, last but not least, books that were required reading for other people in my high school, who took the regular English classes (I was in honors):
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
But the point of all of these little lists is really a question I have lurking in the back of my mind.

Why do some people want books banned and others want their children/teenagers to specifically read them?

I find this very amusing. Is it the same things in the books that make some dislike it and others find it interesting enough for discussion? I don’t think that these questions have an easy answer. Unless, that is, you’re an English teacher deciding to assign the book to students. And, if the ALA actually revealed why they are all challenged so much. I mean, the more classic books on the lists have reasons on the ALA website for challenges–but the more recent books from the 1990s and 2000s aren’t given any explanation as to why they are challenged. (Maybe they think it’s just obvious or something 🙂 )

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One thought on “BBW 2011: Requiring Banned/Challenged Books in School?

  1. As someone who is against book banning, I really don’t understand why some people want books banned. Okay, no, I can *sort of* understand — sexual content, violence, swearing, drugs … that’s the kind of stuff parents don’t want their kids to come in contact with … I guess they think it keeps their kid “pure” and “innocent”. But what I don’t understand is that, don’t parents realize their kids WILL and DO come in contact with such matters anyway? Movies, video games, TV shows … a BOOK is probably the safest place for a kid to come in contact with these things. But I don’t know, most of the books I’ve seen on ban lists have very MINIMAL sexual content, or swearing, or violence … heck, some are challenged for the silliest reasons, in my opinion. Like “talking animals”. Or “magic”. (Granted those are usually the overly religious parents, but still …).

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