Should Your Child Read Banned Books?

Banned Book Week concluded this past Saturday, September 29th. You might wonder why we celebrate controversial banned books. The answer is simple: freedom.  Freedom of ideas and expression is paramount to moving forward and to understanding our past. It is a fundamental reason why I believe children should be allowed to read both challenged and banned books and that they should not be removed from schools or libraries.

Sometimes when I look at a book that has made the banned or challenged list, I have to scratch my head and say, “hmmm.” While some banned books can contain controversial or dark subject matter, others seem entirely benign. Think back to some of your childhood favorites such as Winnie-The-Pooh, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte’s Web, and Alice in Wonderland. What do they all have in common? At one time or another, they have all either been challenged or banned books.

Read Challenged or Banned Books Together

My daughter and I read many banned books over the years together, and this is the perfect opportunity for you to bond with your child over a book. If your child is very young, they will not understand the concept of banned books. In fact, in many cases, what made these books banned in the first place is no longer relevant in today’s society. Regardless, your child will appreciate the time spent reading together.

For material with a darker subject matter, this is a chance to hold a grown-up discussion with your older child or teen. Since they are independent readers, you will both have to read the book separately. Afterward, listen to your child’s perspective of the material and share your thoughts. It is a fantastic way in which to engage with your child and to find out where they stand on different social issues. You may find the whole process extremely eye-opening.

The important thing to remember is not to press upon them your opinions and values. This is strictly a learning opportunity for both you and your child to grow closer and to gain a better understanding of one another. As you progress through this process, it is crucial to maintain an environment where your child feels safe sharing their thoughts without fear of criticism.

A Sneaky Little Tip

Do you have a reluctant reader? Casually drop a hint that you picked up a “banned book” and leave it out in the open. That’s it. Now, just sit back and see how long it takes before your reluctant reader’s curiosity is piqued!

Recommended Reading List of Challenged or Banned Books

Banned Books: Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are is fifty years old! Maurice Sendak’s Caldecott Medal-winning picture book has become one of the most highly acclaimed and best-loved children’s books of all time. A must for every child’s bookshelf.

Introduce a new generation to Max’s imaginative journey with this special anniversary edition. Let the wild rumpus continue as this classic comes to life like never before with new reproductions of Maurice Sendak’s artwork.

Astonishing state-of-the-art technology faithfully captures the color and detail of the original illustrations. Sendak himself enthusiastically endorsed this impressive new interpretation of his art before his death in 2012. This iconic story has inspired a movie, an opera, and the imagination of generations.

dimensions: 228 x 254 millimeter

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Recommended age: 4+

Banned Books: Hop On Pop

Hop on Pop

This classic Beginner Book makes an ideal gift for Seuss fans and is an especially good way to show Pop some love!

Loved by generations, this “simplest Seuss for youngest use” is a Beginner Book classic. See Red and Ned and Ted and Ed in a bed. And giggle as Pat sits on a hat and on a cat and on a bat . . . but a cactus? Pat must NOT sit on that! This classic Beginner Book makes an ideal gift for Seuss fans and is an especially good way to show Pop some love on Father’s Day!

Originally created by Dr. Seuss, Beginner Books encourage children to read all by themselves, with simple words and illustrations that give clues to their meaning.

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Recommended age: 3+

Banned Books: Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury’s internationally acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 is a masterwork of twentieth-century literature set in a bleak, dystopian future.

Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.

Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.

When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.

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Recommended reading level: Middle grade and up

Banned Books: The Diary of a Young Girl

The Diary of a Young Girl

Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. 

In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annex” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

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Recommended reading level: Middle grade and up

Banned Books: The Giver

The Giver

Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

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Recommended reading level: Middle grade and up

Banned Books: Olive's Ocean

Olive’s Ocean

Sometimes life can change in an instant.

Martha Boyle and Olive Barstow could have been friends, but they weren’t. Weeks after a tragic accident, all that is left are eerie connections between the two girls, former classmates who both kept the same secret without knowing it. Now, even while on vacation at the ocean, Martha can’t stop thinking about Olive. Things only get more complicated when Martha begins to like Jimmy Manning, a neighbor boy she used to despise. What is going on? Can life for Martha be the same ever again?

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Recommended reading level: Middle grade and up

Banned Books: Paper Towns

Paper Towns

Winner of the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery
#1 New York Times Bestseller
USA Today Bestseller
Publishers Weekly Bestseller
Now a major motion picture

When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night—dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q.

Printz Medalist John Green returns with the trademark brilliant wit and heart-stopping emotional honesty that have inspired a new generation of readers.

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Recommended reading level: Teens and up

Banned Books:: The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner

The #1 New York Times bestselling debut novel that introduced Khaled Hosseini to millions of readers the world over.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, caught in the tragic sweep of history, The Kite Runner transports readers to Afghanistan at a tense and crucial moment of change and destruction. A powerful story of friendship, it is also about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

Since its publication in 2003 Kite Runner has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic of contemporary literature, touching millions of readers, and launching the career of one of America’s most treasured writers.

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Recommended reading level: Teens and up

My Thoughts on Censorship

As parents, I know we want to protect our children. However, I do not believe in sheltering children intellectually because I firmly believe they need to grow and become independent thinkers. Further, it is our responsibility to encourage new ideas and thoughts so that they can move toward a bright, new future. For this reason, it is my opinion that censorship does not have a place in a child’s curriculum or library. After all, we want to promote books that will stimulate their minds, imagination, and foster the love of reading.

The foregoing statement is my opinion on the censorship of challenged and banned books. I realize it may differ from the opinion of others. I only ask that you respect my viewpoint as I would respect yours.

For more information on challenged and banned books, please visit the American Library Association.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON BOOK BANNING? Please leave a comment below and let us know! I would also love to hear if you had a favorite childhood banned book.

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By |2018-10-04T19:40:40+00:00October 4th, 2018|Literacy|13 Comments


  1. Julie Gorges October 4, 2018 at 11:45 pm - Reply

    Love your tip about leaving “banned” books out to tempt young readers. Unresistable! Lol. Surprised some of those books you mentioned were banned and loved your list. Have read most of them and some are my favorites. Thanks for sharing!

    • K. Lamb October 5, 2018 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Julie! I’m a sneaky one when it comes to encouraging children to read. I’ll use everything I can think of to entice them to pick up a book.

      The books that have been challenged or banned over the years is surprising. I cannot imagine not reading some of the books that made the list. Books have the power to make such an impact on us, and we need those lessons at the forefront so history does not repeat itself.

      I have read all the books listed on the page, except one: Hop on Pop. However, I wanted to include books for all age categories. Although, rest assured, now that I know it made the banned book list in the past, I will be the one “picking it up” to see what was so intriguing about the book that someone felt it necessary to challenge or ban the book.

  2. Sandra Bennett October 5, 2018 at 1:55 am - Reply

    Absolutely agree with you Kristen. Great to see my conversation in my Facebook group Raising Awesome Readers, sparked your idea to raise this topic further. It is important to hold the conversation. I don’t believe any book should be banned. Children need to have the choice to read whatever is available. How else will they grow, learn and be challenged to think?

    • K. Lamb October 5, 2018 at 9:03 pm - Reply

      Sandra, I am glad we share the same opinion on banned books. It is a topic I have touched on many times in blogs past. Children need to be allowed to spread their literary wings.

      My daughter’s reading material was never scrutinized growing up. We allowed her to read whatever interested her. If it was a topic that we thought was a little too mature or she might have questions about, I always read the same book so that we could discuss it in detail. Some of my best memories revolve around book shopping with my daughter. She was like a kid in a candy store and my heart soared every time her eyes would light up whenever a book caught her interest.

  3. James Milson October 5, 2018 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    A relevant topic well presented. My issue on the subject of “Banned Books” is always “Who” is doing the banning and “Whose Yardstick” are they using to measure and enforce their own ideologies and agendas on others? Ban the ‘banners’. It is either a Free Press, or it’s not.

    • K. Lamb October 8, 2018 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      Well said, Jim! Thanks for reading.

  4. Rosie Russell October 5, 2018 at 6:39 pm - Reply

    Such an interesting article and reviews for banned books K. Lamb.

    I’ve read some of these, but will look up the other ones at our library.
    I do think it depends on the age group on which some books are introduced. I think I talked about a certain Halloween book that was in our school library. Our first grade son then, got a hold of it and I have to admit, I was taken back by it. When I returned it to the proper person, they said it was suppose to be in the 5th grade section. That made sense.

    “The Giver” was banned in our middle schools here for a while. Now days, after books like the Hunger Games, I don’t think that book will be much of a deal to today’s readers.
    I love this subject and really enjoyed your post.
    Thanks and have a wonderful weekend,

  5. K. Lamb October 5, 2018 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    Rosie, thank you for your thoughts on the subject! I respect everyone’s opinion on the subject even if different from my own. It can be a touchy situation. 🙂

    Here is a real-life example of why I believe children should be able to read outside their age categories (which may include banned books). Our daughter was an advanced reader. She entered Kindergarten able to read simple books. By third grade, she won the Accelerated Reader contest for her school (K-8). However, because she read so much, she soon outgrew books in her age category. They were too simple for her. She moved on to more complex books (therefore, subject matters as well) early on. She loved participating in the AR program. It was a personal challenge to her to see how many books she could read on the list. Since her teachers were aware of her reading level, they allowed her to pick any book on the AR list as long as it was equal to or above her grade. She flourished. Fast forward to 5th grade. Her teacher demanded she read books at her grade level if she wanted to participate in her school’s voluntary AR program. The outcome? She stopped participating. In her own words, “I’m not going backward.” She chose to continue reading books that stimulated her intellect instead of being forced to stagnate at her grade level. It was a shame because she gave up a program she loved participating in every year.

    As mentors and teachers, this is where we need to support children and their reading abilities whether they read below, at, or above their age level. I am of the opinion, we should focus our interest on the individual child and not on a set criteria for a specific age group. This includes subject matter.

    Of course, I am also the person that as a small child loved to read Brahm Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, neither of which at the time would have been considered suitable for a young child. I guess my strong opinion stems from having a wide array of books at my disposal as a youth and a grandmother who encouraged a love of reading.

    I with happily (more importantly, respectfully) discuss the pros and cons with you any time on the subject of books. I know you will value my opinion just as I will always value yours.

    Wishing you a wonderful weekend as well, my friend!

  6. corrina holyoake October 6, 2018 at 10:07 am - Reply

    What an eye opener! I didn’t even know some of those well known titles were challenged or banned. I loved the tip as well, great way to entice them to read it. I am curious to read all the titles I haven’t read in your list now, for me having a label of banned or challenged would instantly want me to read it.

    • K. Lamb October 8, 2018 at 8:37 pm - Reply

      Exactly, Corrina, which is why it is a great way to get reluctant readers motivated to pick up a book. Everyone has a natural curiosity over a book labeled “banned”.

      Let me know how you enjoy the books you haven’t yet read yet. I would love to hear your thoughts!

  7. Cat Michaels October 7, 2018 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    I did not realize so many of my fave books were banned….Hop on Pop..really?!?!?! Interesting to look back to see what tales had been banned and the back story that led them there.

    Agree with Julie …. Love using banned books to hook reluctant readers!

    • K. Lamb October 8, 2018 at 8:34 pm - Reply

      It’s amazing once you see the list, isn’t it? So many wonderful books I have read have made the list. Such a shame. As you said, though, the back-story behind the reasons are quite interesting.

      Oh, and Hop on Pop gave me a chuckle, too.

  8. Rosie Russell October 9, 2018 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your note Kristen.
    Congratulations to your daughter for her advanced reading skills. The son I spoke of, was and has always been a high reader and we’ve been very proud of him for that as well.
    The book I was referring to in my comment was a non-fiction book about the origins of Halloween. To me, the book was not school library material. Yes, 5th graders are more equipped to handle the information in the book more than a 1st grader. I wouldn’t have called or requested it to be ‘banned” I just felt it’s not a book for the elementary level. I can see middle school readers reading it for a non-fiction book report.
    I hope I cleared this up a bit.
    Thanks again,

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