*Note: This actually began as a Facebook post until I realized I had WAY more to say about it.*
So you may have heard that it's banned books week. Actually it's the tail end of it (I'll have to put next year's on my calendar). I've been reading a lot of articles and lists of why different books have been banned and wanted to add my two cents.
I've been teaching for nine years and have been actively reading ever since I learned how. The love for books was instilled in me at a very young age. My dad was an English major in college and read to me from the very beginning. Although I grew up in a Southern Baptist pastor's home in south Mississippi, though, my parents always tried to make sure I understood why they didn't agree with certain beliefs and lifestyles. We talked. I was encouraged to ask questions, and they would answer them to the best of their ability. I remember when "homosexuality" became a hot topic. I'm not exactly sure if I brought it up or not (it was around a presidential debate), but they explained what it was and why the bible says it's wrong.
(I know that not everyone reading this agrees, and I'm sure some of you are mad that I even added that. Please know that I have given this topic MUCH more thought as I have gotten older and this has continued to become a less popular belief. If you disagree, I would love to have a deeper discussion with you about my beliefs, just not on here. I PROMISE you that I don't hate homosexuals and may even surprise you with some of the thoughts and conclusions that I have come to. Likewise, I am willing to listen to your side of the story.)
As I went to high school and college, I would always joke that everyone kept me sheltered, but that's only half true. Yes, I was kept away from the party scene and was your by-the-book "goody two-shoes", but I knew what was going on. I knew some of my friends drank, were abused, experimented with drugs or sex, etc. I see too many people now that are so scared of their children going off the deep end that they leave them completely ignorant of beliefs, ideas, and hardships that may make them sad or upset. I actually had a parent this week that didn't want her child to read The Whipping Boy because it was too sad, and "fifth grade is so young to even think about beatings". If that's the case, then we should never learn about the Holocaust or September 11 or almost anything else "hard" that happens in history.
The truth of the matter is that life is tough. Our children will grow up (whether we like it or not), and they will experience situations that are uncomfortable or just flat out terrible. It is our job as parents and teachers to prepare them for the real world. This is why I choose some books that may be sad or even terrible. I surely didn't read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, or Where the Red Fern Grows to my students for a good laugh (and yes, I read all of those books as read alouds to 4th graders, some for multiple years). But those book teach important life lessons. They create discussions where students begin to question actions and develop a strong sense of right and wrong.
Do I believe parents should be involved in the final decision of what their child reads? Yes...to a point. Really ask yourself why you don't want your student to read the book. Are they too young for it? Then I would ask why. Is it because it will bring up topics that are inappropriate to dwell on at their age? Then I would probably agree with the parent. I personally don't agree with my students (3rd and 4th grade) reading The Hunger Games and thinking about children killing other children, although I tell them that they can read it IF their parents are okay with it. I would also not want my teenage daughter (if I had one) touching Fifty Shades of Grey AT LEAST until she was married. But if it's something they are already aware of (like war, death, divorce, historical events), then I would maybe read along with them and discuss it. Then if it seems like too much, you can always stop.
Please don't just "go with the flow" and prevent your child from reading just because someone said it was a "bad book". If you did, you probably would have never read Where the Wild Things Are (too scary). And seriously, can you imagine a world without Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Personally, I loved the fact that those terrible kids finally got their "just deserts" (and that is the correct spelling; I looked it up).
What are your thoughts? I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with me.