Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Challenged Books

Yahoo! News reported recently that Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books are now on the list of most frequently challenged books put out by the American Library Association.

In this, she joins the Harry Potter books (which actually fell out of the top ten most challenged books this year). I bring you this information for a particular reason.

If you have a tween girl, she has probably either read, or asked to read, the Twilight books. Yes, they are about vampires. Yes, there's a lot of sexual tension in the books, but the characters remain steadfastly chaste until they marry in book 4 and even then, nothing is explicitly described. Yes, they're somewhat violent. But really, in the greater context of young adult and teen lit, they're pretty tame. How do I know this?

I've read them.

Another perennial member of the ALA challenged list is The Color Purple. I read this one as a freshman in college about a million years ago when it was still new and fresh. It is a very good book, and I might be okay with a senior English class reading it, but probably not much lower. It's got some very brutal themes -- child rape, separation, lesbianism, abuse. Perhaps it's popping up in high schools because it's a handy book-movie combo.

Other challenged books are for younger kids, like one about two male penguins adopting a baby. This one is in many elementary libraries, possibly unbeknownst to district parents.

Now, I am not writing this to send you marching, insurgent-style, to your school libraries to demand the removal of these texts. You are certainly free to do that, but that's not my point. My point is this: you the parent, need to know what your child is bringing home to read, either from the library or from teacher-distributed texts in class.

Last year my kindergarten son brought home a book in which the charming little animal characters decided to conduct a seance. We sent that one back to the library after explaining to him that we didn't like stories about spooky, icky stuff like that. And of course, there was the incident with the middle school book assigned to my eight year old. In the nicest possible way, I objected to this book and my daughter didn't have to read it.

You don't get to be like this. Unless, of course, you don't care what your kids might be absorbing from what they read. Keep tabs on what they're reading, object in a nice way if you don't like it. Send library books back unread if they don't fit your geo-political or religious views. And always be nice, be nice, be nice.

You don't do anyone any favors if you act like a jerk.

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