Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Report on Banned Book Challenge

To date, 28 people have signed up for the Banned Book Challenge with the goal of reading 332 books.

There is still time to sign up. The challenge goes until June 30. Set your own goal and let us know about it. I will publish any reviews, etc. as they are sent to me.

A comment today indicates that one of our participants has accomplished reading 38 challenged books to date. Great work. I set myself the modest goal of four and have completed them. I love the challenge of reading books I may not have otherwise chosen for myself.


SafeLibraries said...

No books have been banned in the USA for about half a century.

fahrenheit451moderator said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fahrenheit451moderator said...

Since this is the second comment you have left, I thought you were looking for a response.

While "banned" is a bit of a misnomer for our reading challenge, it is short and to the point. Otherwise it would be "Banned and Challenged Book Challenge" -- a bit of a mouthful.

While you are correct that most literature has not been banned for 50 years in the US, I imagine there are publications which would still be banned. While I cannot speak for the US, in particular, I know that many publications have not made it past Canada Customs en route to bookstores. (Check the Little Sisters' Book and Art Emporium history for more information.) So, books have been banned from Canada. The other thing you should understand is that this blog is read around the world and people from all over are invited to take part in the challenge.

One reason for continuing to highlight books that have been challenged is to remind people of the freedom we have to read and to speak mostly uncensored. We stand in solidarity with people around the world whose government continues to censor materials and often highlight those struggles -- Cuba, China, and Malaysia come to mind.

Books are still banned from schools, even in the US and in Canada. Vamos a Cuba was banned from Miami-Dade County schools. Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak was banned from elementary schools in by the Toronto Public School Board. Both of these books were challenged within the past five years. Do these books threaten the safety of our children? I think not!

I will defend every person's right to keep books that do not meet their value system from their own children. However, no one has the right to keep those books from other people's children. Concerned parents accompany their children to the public library and discuss anything they think is controversial with their children.

I see that you are concerned with people being able to view pornography in the library. Our particular library has set up a policy concerning Internet usage. "The Library reserves the right to ask individuals to refrain from displaying disturbing or offensive information or images." We have only had to enforce this policy twice in the eight years that I have been here. While you advocate the purchase of Internet blockers from your organization, these are tools which can be frustrating to use because of the parameters they set up for the search, locking out sites which can be used for legitimate research. They can also be circumvented very easily by anyone who is computer literate.

It seems to me that your issue with the "Banned Book Challenge" is less about the books than the Internet access which libraries provide.

SafeLibraries said...

Great comment. Just know that I do not "advocate the purchase of Internet blockers from [my] organization."

Your support for various issues is admirable. In the case of the Cuban librarians, it is clear you oppose the American Library Association's stance that the Cuban librarian issue should be "drown."


By the way, schools removing books for being educationally unsuitable is not the same thing as banning a book. Perhaps you may wish to read "National Hogwash Week."

fahrenheit451moderator said...

Thank you for recognizing that I try to present a balanced view on the issue of censorship.

I've read "National Hogwash Week." People are entitled to hold that opinion. I do not. In Canada, we celebrate the Freedom to Read Week. I believe it is important to continue to recognize that we have an important freedom that many people in the world do not enjoy -- so I celebrate it.

The two books that I mentioned, Vamos a Cuba and Three Wishes were not removed because they were educationally unsuitable, in my opinion. They were removed due to the political pressure from particular groups. I chose those two examples particularly because of how they were banned from schools.

Vamos a Cuba is part of a series of books used by primary students for projects. No other books in the series were removed, nor was Vamos a Cuba removed in any other county. I've been to Cuba. There are, in fact, smiling children living in Cuba, whether or not parents in Miami-Dade County like it or not. It is a foolish reason to remove a book to say that smiling children on the cover give children in the US a distorted view of life in Cuba.

=">Deborah Ellis, author of Three Wishes has received numerous awards for her many books. In fact, she has won the Governor General's Award -- the most prestigious book award in Canada. When Three Wishes was nominated for the Ontario Library Association's Red Maple Award, the Canadian Jewish Congress pressured the Toronto District School Board to remove the book from elementary schools. Once again, this was a political banning, not an educational choice. No other school board has found the book objectionable.

When people demand books like To Kill a Mockingbird or Huckleberry Finn be removed from the Canadian curriculum, I tend to agree with them because they are educationally unsuitable. They are not offensive but they do not reflect a Canadian view.

I have heard of a number of quiet bannings in my area. Books are being removed by well-meaning principals, teachers, or school librarians but not through proper channels. I think it is really important to have a process and make sure all parties have their voices heard.

I believe what Jo Godwin has said. "A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone." That includes school libraries. Let's give children a wide range of reading and give them a little credit for being developing critical thinkers.

fahrenheit451moderator said...

Sorry, I missed something in the Deborah Ellis link.