by Bridgette Mabuto
Did you know that books are one of the most banned form of entertainment? In fact, recent polls show Americans believe books should have more censorship than movies, television shows or even video games. And while people consistently try to get books banned from libraries, the most common place to see these bans is in schools.
I find two things amusing about banning certain books from schools. The first is that many of these books are banned for ridiculous reasons and with very little support. The second is that when a book is banned, children and adults both are more likely to want to read it. Besides, studies have shown that when a book is challenged or banned, the attention actually increases sales. For example, the Harry Potter series was one of the most challenged books of this generation. Trying to get rid of that book sure didn’t work, since there are now movies and theme parks all based on the books.
But sometimes there is no humor in banning books. Many banned books are harmless and banned for unbelievable reasons, but some are banned because they speak out against certain ideologies held by society today. By keeping these books off the shelves, it’s keeping people from expanding their point of view and learning about subjects that they might not hear about normally. Which is why it’s time to get a few of these books back in school.
Banned Books Week won’t be here until September, but in the meantime, have a look at some of the banned books that schools should allow.
Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne
It’s hard to believe that everyone’s favorite honey-addicted bear is banned from schools. I mean, honestly, what is there in this book that could possibly upset people? Well, apparently, talking animals are an “affront to God.”
You’re probably thinking that Winnie-the-Pooh, that affronting bear, must have been banned a long time ago and his legacy continues on. After all, most movies for children these days involve talking animals and there aren’t protests outside of those. But, no. Winnie-the-Pooh was banned in 2006 for the same reason.
Where’s Waldo, by Martin Handford
Yes, this little search and find book has been banned from schools. Considering the book has few to no words per page, the fact that someone was so offended by it that they needed to have it banned is kind of surprising.
The reason? Apparently, in a beach scene in the original Where’s Waldo, the side of a woman’s breast was visible. Of course, you can turn on a television commercial and see 10 times the amount of real skin on any given day. But at least we’re safe from Where’s Waldo!
Yertle the Turtle, by Dr. Seuss
It’s hard to believe that anything Dr. Seuss wrote would need to be banned. However, Yertle the Turtle isn’t the doctors’ first foray into banned-hood. The Lorax was also on several ban lists for villainizing the foresting industry. But I digress. On to Yertle the Turtle.
I know up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down here at the bottom
We, too, should have rights.
That’s the line that got Yertle the Turtle banned from schools. The question I come away with is, why would a parent not want to teach his or her children about basic human rights?
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See, by Bill Martin Jr.
No, Brown Bear was not banned because of its semi-annoying rhymes, but because its author was a Marxist. At least that’s what the official in Texas thought when they banned the little children’s book. The Bill Martin Jr who wrote the book is not a Marxist. Bill Martin is, but the Bill Martin Jr who wrote Brown Bear, Brown Bear is an entirely different person. And there is certainly nothing about Marxism in the book.
Little Red Riding Hood, by the Brothers Grimm
There are a lot of reasons to ban certain Grimm stories. They’re far from being the cute fairytales that many of us grew up hearing. However, the reason for banning this particular Grimm book wasn’t for its content, but for one picture in a 1980s version.
In this version, Little Red Riding Hood is seen skipping through the forest with a basket of food for her grandmother. The problem? Out of her little basket peeks a bottle of wine. And, of course, this encourages drinking in children.
Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh
Harriet might not be the model child, but she’s curious and resourceful and doesn’t deserve to be banned from school. But she is banned, because she acts just like a normal 11-year-old. Or, as the parents who got the book banned claimed, she was a bad example to children. Honestly, I think all children are bad examples to other children.
Now that we’ve spent some time looking in to books banned from elementary schools, here a few banned from middle- and high schools. Granted, not every student is mature enough to deal with the subject matter in all of these books; this decision should be made on a student-by-student basis by parents. Broadly banning these books is not the solution to their heavier story lines.
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
The subject matter of The Bluest Eye is heavy. It deals with child molestation and has a few moments of bad language. However, the overall story is one that is needed in today’s world: Racism is a real problem. Sometimes, racism doesn’t look like it does on the news. Sometimes it’s not kids in parks getting shot by police. Sometimes it’s the small subjugations that make everything in life more difficult. These issues aren’t just felt by adults, but often hurt and scar the young adults in the world. And The Bluest Eye is a great way to get young adults talking about these issues in a safe, open place.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
This book has been banned because, like Harriet the Spy, it shows teenagers acting like teenagers. They curse, drink, hook up and deal with subjects like race and sexuality. But True Diary also shows readers something that we don’t often get to see: A Native-American perspective on being a teenager. Native-Americans have so few books out and even fewer on what it’s like to grow up in a world where they’re a minority. Banning one of the better books that approaches this topic in a relatable way is a serious shame.
My Brother Sam is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
My Brother Sam is Dead was banned because it has too much violence in it. Yes, violence is a horrible thing. However, in My Brother Sam is Dead, violence is shown for what it really is: horrible and destructive. It tears apart families and doesn’t lead to a happy ending, as it’s often Meanwhile our entire world is full of glorified violence. Whether in movies, music, television shows or video games, violence is often seen as fun and cool, or at the very least the most efficient means to an end.
In addition to offering insight about how truly horrible war is, it also gives a look at the Revolutionary War that isn’t included in history books. And learning about history is a good thing, right?
Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
I think most children have read this book or seen the movies. However, certain parents don’t want their children exposed to the religious viewpoint they feel the book takes. And, of course, there’s the horrific violence of children killing children.
I love Hunger Games, but I also agree that it’s a bit violent for younger children. And that’s the whole point of the book. Children shouldn’t be subjected to the violence they are continuously bombarded with every day. And, like in My Brother Sam is Dead, violence should not be glorified. Because it breaks hearts.