Mundie Moms

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book Banning - One Educator's Perspective

Several weeks ago, I (Aly) was asked to write a blog post for Banned Book Week for Mundie Moms by Katie. I was planning on writing one thing until I read Dr. Wesley Scroggin’s editorial ( on Sunday, September 19, 2010. Thanks to Paul W. Hankins, an English Teacher in Kentucky, the twitterverse was set ablaze with the hashtag #speakloudly as authors, books lovers, librarians, and bloggers showed their support and solidarity for Laurie Halse Anderson’s book SPEAK. Throughout the day, several female authors shared their own stories of sexual abuse and rape and how books such as SPEAK are powerful, critical and life affirming and should not be removed from classrooms or school librarians.

Books being challenged or banned is not something that was seen only decades ago. It is still happening today in towns and cities all over the United States. Often a parent with little to no real knowledge about a particular book (heck in most cases they haven’t even read the book) will walk into a school or a library and demand that a book be pulled. Typically, there is a process that a library or a school will go through to determine if there is merit to the complaint. In some cases, if the book is part of classroom assigned reading, an alternative will be given to the student whose parent has voiced a concern. In other situations, depending on how vocal and instrumental the parent is, the book will be pulled altogether.

When I was a child, some of the books listed as banned books had a significant POSITIVE impact on my life. Just because I read GO ASK ALICE, didn’t mean that I was going to run out and immediately take drugs. And if I read about teen pregnancy, I didn’t say to myself “Oh, I think I will get pregnant to see what it is like.” Instead, I thought more carefully about my actions and the consequences that might result in certain situations. My parents didn’t censor what I read but they did instill in me a sense of values and I was able to compare what I was reading against those beliefs.

As a book lover and educator, the whole concept of banning a book infuriates me. We are told we must develop critical thinking skills in children, and yet, books that may assist with just that are being challenged and in some cases pulled from our classrooms and our libraries all across America. When I select a book to read aloud in a classroom, to use as part of a curriculum or just to recommend to a student, I often have to stop and ask myself “What will parents think of this book?” I understand why I have to do this, but it doesn’t make it feel or seem better.

However, parents such as Dr. Scroggins really irk me beyond all reason. Why does one parent get to set the standard for all children in a school or a district? And to place religious significance to it makes me fume even more. Scroggins lives in an imaginary world if he believes that by removing all references to sex, various forms of sexual activity, sexual abuse, or pregnancy from the schools that children will be better off. I am not sure what world he lives in but children are aware of profanity, sex, and other so-called offensive topics. If parents are not going to discuss these issues with their children, then children are going to find people who will discuss it with them. I would rather that be with a caring teacher or within the pages of a well-written novel than from peers with limited knowledge.

A few months back, I had the honor and privilege of reading the writing of a group of teen girls. Most were in an alternative education program for teen moms or pregnant teens. Their writing was honest and raw. Page after page, I read of stories about physical abuse or sexual abuse they had suffered through silently until they found their voice with their writing. My tears of sorrow as I read their work turned into tears of joy because despite the horrors they had experienced, they were also finding hope and healing. Small minded people like Scroggins who prefer to live with their heads in the sand would seek to stifle these voices just as they seek to stifle the words of authors such as Laurie Halse Anderson or Ellen Hopkins or many others. However, we can not allow this to happen.

It is for these girls (& boys) and many others who will follow that I will continue to make challenged and banned books available to students in the hopes that these stories will provide a sense of hope and healing. And for those students who are fortunate enough to come from strong supportive homes and who have been spared some of these horrors of life, I hope that they will develop an understanding and respond with compassion when a friend instead is confronted with ones of these issues.

To celebrate our ability to speak loudly and demonstrate to those who would restrict what children and teens can read, I am offering one lucky reader a chance to win a copy of one of the following challenged/banned books mentioned in Scroggins article:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Burned by Ellen Hopkins (not mentioned in article but frequently challenged)
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Please see details below as to how to enter the contest:
* One entry per person/per email
* Participants must complete the entry form
* Contest also open to international participants
* Contest ends on Sunday, September 26, 2010 at 11:59 PDT


  1. i totally agree and support you and all other bloggers/twitterers in this thing. I can only hope that most parents are not like him.

    thank you btw :D

  2. I love your post Aly! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us on Mundie Moms!!!

  3. Great post - I wrote something similar for a guest post on Smash Attack Reads! This was just a few days before the big hoopla over Speak, though. It's all such nonsense. I can write all day (and I do post weekly, actually, on censorship and book banning) but I can't imagine what my reaction would be if a parent stormed into my office and actually demanded that I pull a Sherman Alexie book from the shelf. My goodness.

  4. Thanks Mundie Moms for letting me share. And Roof Beam Reader - You just get use to parents "storming the office" for all sorts of reasons. Most need to be reassured.

  5. Oh Aly, what a well written post from a POV that is so very vital to all of us. The parents who storm your office are the very ones who need to read these books and be more aware. Your words hit home for me. I read Go Ask Alice, Judy Blume's Forever and oh so many of the books on the ALA list of Banned Books and it didn't make me want to do drugs/have sex etc. In fact it showed me the repercussions of those decisions when I was only in 8th/9th grade. Thank you so much for your words and for continuing to open the minds of not just children but also their parents.

  6. Awesome awesome post Aly!! I totally agree with you!

  7. Wow. What a great post. I love that there are educators who care about this issue and want to share books with students that may help them through tough times.

    Thanks for this post. I am now following your blog.

  8. That is a great post. I really dont understand people who easily think lowly as that. if they hate the book, then just avoid it. we live in a free world!

  9. Beautiful post and I agree with everything you wrote here. Thanks for your wonderful blog post and I hope that you also read mine:

    Again, beautiful.

  10. I agree with everything you said! It not fair that one dickhead can make the decisions of many. It's not fair that his also got this power in doing so.

    Your post is beautiful! Thank you for speaking out! Not only for yourself, but for others who don't have a voice as well!