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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