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May 03, 2010


Mundie Moms

I absolutely agree with everything you said.

I believe parents should be the only ones who decide what is an appropriate book for their own children to read, and no one else's. What is suitable for child, may not be for the other and visa versa.

Jenni Elyse

Thank you for your post, Shannon. I completely agree with you. Even if I find a book offensive, I'm not going to try to ban it. I'll only give my opinion of it and let others make up their own minds as to whether or not they will read it.

I know that many people chose not to read The Golden Compass because of its anti-Christian overtones. I did choose to read it; I also chose to ignore the author's intent to dissuade me in believing in God. And, actually by reading the book, I felt my belief in God only strengthened because of Pullman's depiction of God; it wasn't my same depiction or belief and so I didn't think of the character as God in any way.

I think that if people choose not to read a book, then good for them. Good for them in sticking up for their values and beliefs. I just don't think people should try to oppress others' rights because they don't agree with something.


"I don't believe that children imitate what they read in books. I believe they absorb and learn from books, but I don't think they smoke because a minor character in a book smokes. A child's behavior is much more influenced by parents, siblings, and peers. But books do affect how a child sees and makes sense of the world and her place in it."


Miss Erin

Very, very well said.


Though I doubt there are many books directed at five year olds that depict chewing tobacco, your point is well taken: books can be the catalyst for learning and bonding experiences between parents and children.

I agree with much of what you said, BUT I do feel that some books (particularly those with graphic and gratuitous sex) are inappropriate for public school libraries, particularly elementary and middle schools. Public libraries, in my opinion, should have free reign, especially since parents would hopefully have more control or input over what their children check out.

cj omololu

My non-reader son has devoured every single Bone book and has given them to a bunch of friends. How sad if everyone only read books with points of view or experiences they shared and agreed with.

Love the post, and I have the "I Read Banned Books" bracelet to prove it!

PS - When you find out who is in charge of the book-banning, can you slip them a copy of my book too?


What you said. (And very well.)

I have a 12-yr-old daughter who was desperate to read the Twilight books because she felt left out. I thought they were a bit mature for her age, but eventually relented. She hasn't read them--she just wanted the freedom to do so.

And you're so right about books opening up conversations between parents and children that might not otherwise happen.

Hooray for the power of books!


I'm one semester away from becoming a Children's/Teen Librarian and the knowledge that I'm probably going to come up against requests to ban books only strengthens my resolve to explain rationally why banning doesn't solve anything. Your response to this issue comforts me a little in knowing I'm not alone, so thank you! Also, I have to say I haven't come across your work before, but after looking around your site I fully plan on checking it out!


Yes, yes, yes! I discussed censorship in a children's lit class in college and we talked about all the ideas you shared. I've got to say, I completely agree. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.


I think that perhaps the reason people would see books that portray characters doing less moral acts is because they might not be familiar with the idea of representation. There's representation, and then there's advocacy. If you're watching a movie where a family is having dinner but suddenly ditches their meal to go watch their favorite TV show, would you say they're advocating that? No, that's silly. It's simply representation of the characters and how they choose to live their lives. (Personally, my own mother would kill me if I ever left dinner to watch TV, or at the least, make me do the dishes.)

It's probably harder for some parents to see that, because they would perceive the representation as advocacy because the representation might portray the characters as normal. If children admire the characters, then maybe some kids will want to drink and smoke, too, along with EVERY OTHER KID ON THE ENTIRE PLANET, and if THEY'RE doing it, then their KIDS will want to do it. The next thing you know, they'll be having pina coladas and tap dancing on pianos and committing other heinous crimes of the sort. Maybe that's why they're afraid of books like that.

However, I agree completely with you on keeping this between the parents and children. It was always between them, anyway.

Kierah Jane Reilly

I remember asking my mom about periods after reading Judy Blume and then my daughter asked me about erections after reading Lauren Myracle. We've had some interesting conversations in our house! Sheltering kids reminds me of the short story Roald Dahl wrote about the boy who was raised a vegetarian and then dies at the slaughter house while investigating how meat could taste so good when he was taught that it was vile and disgusting. Great post!

Enna Isilee



Great post! It is especially salient for me because I read The Catcher in the Rye this weekend, and laughed when I read that at one point it was simultaneously the most banned and the most taught-in-class book at one point.

I like your philosophy of parental involvement. I am always up for a good excuse to read more instead of do housework.


PS, I can't BELIEVE some of the books on that banned list! I have read quite a few and was apparently naive enough not to even pick up on what I should be questioning my parents about.


"This book isn't right for my child; therefore it is right for no child and no child should have access to it." I don't think I could have stated my problem with censorship any better than that!

And that banned book list... I used to love View From The Cherry Tree...

Megan J.

I totally agree with everything you said, especially about parent involvement. I wish more parents would read with their child and share that bond!

And it's interesting that you used the tobacco example - I live in North Carolina in tobacco country. I chose to read "Ramona and Her Father" to my third grade class for read-aloud starting on D.E.A.R. day (Beverly Cleary's birthday). One of the major story lines in the book is that Ramona and Beezus try to get their dad to stop smoking. This led to a great class discussion that I normally wouldn't have in third grade. They get DARE in fifth grade, but now my kids have a little knowledge before then. I know most of their parents smoke, but maybe this is a step towards preventing a new generation of smokers.


Very well said, Shannon. I wish more parents took the opportunity to talk with their children about serious issues, instead of trying to shield their children from every issue they might encounter.


There's a wonderful section in Azar Nafisi's book Reading Lolita in Tehran in which the students in Dr. Nafisi's class put The Great Gatsby on trial. It is so poignant to read the two sides, the morally conservative and the more Western liberals in the class debate whether a morally corrupt character can corrupt the reader. The reality is that books can corrupt and children and parents should be discerning about what they read but a library that can ban Catcher in the Rye can also ban Shakespeare, the Bible and a host of other amazing works of literature that address adult subjects.


Good point, Mimi. The thing people who try to ban books don't seem to think about is that it can lead to banning the books they thing SHOULD be read.

On another note, as a parent I am finding that books I read and loved as a child, are sometimes books that I jib at the thought of my children reading. As an adult I pick up on on subtleties that went right over my head as a kid and it makes me feel squeamish. I have to grab hold of myself when that happens and remind myself not to be so over-protective. It didn't kill me, it won't kill them. :)

What's much worse is catching my book I despised as a child. Where did she inherit such bad taste from? It must be her father's fault. LOL


That last paragraph came out muddled. What I MEANT to say was:

What's much worse is catching my daughter coming home with books that I despised as a child.


(delturking for a moment)



duh--early morning typing

delurking, not delturking!


I think I'd like to read every book on the "challenged" list. I have read several of them already. :)
I also agree that Banning books is not the answer. I grew up in a home where nothing was talked about. Ever. So a lot of what I learned about life came from fantastic books. (and TV)
I was really surprised to see "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret" on the Challenged book list. I have read that book so many times in the 20+ years since I was 10 and waiting anxiously to be a grown-up. I just don't get it. And "The Giver"? That is a wonderful book that I have handed to my nieces and nephews when they have asked for something to read.
Some people are just over protective I guess, but I know that I will always want my kids to read good books, and learn something from them. Good or bad.

Anna Elliott

What a lovely, thoughtful post! (Weirdly and coincidentally, I just blogged about this, too--only on the adult side of the book spectrum.) I would never, ever, support books being banned. But as a mum, I do definitely think it's my responsibility to pay attention to what my children are reading and make sure they're emotionally ready for the stories they encounter. And as an author, I do think I have a responsibility to be mindful of what stories I ask people to believe in. As you said, books are powerful things.

AJ Dub

I feel that parents should allow children to read books that have content that is questionable in the eyes of the parent, when the child is mature enough to handle the thoughts and feelings and discussions that come with that information. An I agree wholeheartedly that parents need to be very involved with what their kids are reading. For example, my daughter was fine reading all the Harry Potter books when she was 8. My son who is now 8 is still not ready. He has a hard time with the line between reality and fantasy. We let him try the first 2 and how he handled them told us he needed to wait a year or 2 to finish the series.


I love the way you expressed your views about this subject. I learned this in college from a professor and I really do believe that one's ability to censor wisely is dramatically reduced outside his or her own reading.


Excellent post. I too don't believe in censorship, but I do read almost everything that passes through my children's hands. I think it's responsible parenting to be aware of what your children read and talk about it with them. Thanks for sharing.


As an artist, I feel that censorship of any kind is offensive. Of course, there is a lot of offensive artistic material out there. But let me decide what I want my children to read, see, touch, etc. I am the parent. It is my responsibility to help my child make good choices. Not another parent. Thank you, thank you for a beautiful post. I wish more people in this world could see it!!

Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams

Well said, Shannon. I'm all for conversation and for parents monitoring their children's reading - but I think censorship goes too far. And some of those banned books are totally FABULOUS.

Vanessa Houssian

To me a parent (church/organization, etc.) who tries to have a book banned is a parent desperately trying to control a situation they feel they have lost control of. Controlling rarely has the desired effect. Our kids are going to get ideas anyway. Time is better spent teaching them how to think and judge for themselves. I find books and performance arts very helpful, because they allow us to experience vicariously the consequences of certain behaviors and actions, without having to engage in them ourselves.

Je Reve

Gosh, Shannon, now you're encouraging pyromania among your blog readers!!!

(see paragraph 4)


Can I take a copy of this into a certain book store who caved?

Thanks for sharing. I have had this exact conversation with parents who are afraid of certain books. As a parent, I have had some of the best conversations with my children when we have shared thoughts about characters and situations in a book. We can't talk to our kids enough!

Holly Thatcher

Shannon, thank you so much for your answer! The friend of mine who was challenging the Bone books was defeated in her attempt to have the books removed from the libraries of our school district.

Even though I supported her as my friend, and felt she did have the right to her opinion, I didn't feel like I totally agreed with her. In the meeting where the book was voted on, a letter was read by the author, Jeff Smith defending his own work and says that he believed that the smoking, drinking, and gambling in his books were always portrayed as "bad" choices.

Your blog post about this topic is really valuable to me and I plan on sharing it with others. Thanks again.

Princess Loucida

I can't believe that they tried to ban Mark Twain! (Or 'A wrinkle in time') I said something to my mom and she said it was because of racial things but still! Those are classics!

Thanks for this post Mrs. Hale. I didn't know very much about book banning and this was very enlightening!


I think I agree with everything you've said.

But there's one issue that is usually missed in the "to ban or not to ban" and "to censor or not to censor" debates.

The issue is, "What to include in the library?"

When it comes to available books, we're talking about *millions* of options. The scope of a small school or public library absolutely necessitates discrimination. Somebody somewhere has to choose which of the two-hundred thousand books that come out each year should go in the library.

Is choosing one book and not another censoring the other? Of course not. There's only so much space in a library.

If some books are chosen over others, and if school or public library funds are used to purchase them -- what's wrong with my voicing my opinion about the decisions made? If my wanting certain books in the library more than others is "banning" -- why then, so is the librarian's.

Granted, the librarian has a degree, so maybe her tastes are vastly superior to mine.

But we can't get away from the fact that INcluding some books amounts to EXcluding others, for reasons of space and budget. Somebody must determine the criteria for deciding whether a book is chosen for a library. Does an ALA Notable book automatically make it? Does a top-100 seller automatically make it? Somebody has to decide.

I may not have a degree in library sciences, but I still believe that my judgments and opinions regarding that decision are as legitimate as the next person's.

I'm not in favor of banning books, but I am in favor of measured, considered selectivity that considers the relative merit of books in making decisions about how to use library funds and space.


Wow. That list is pretty shocking. I mean, I have several of those books. At least 10. And I've read several more! Lots more, lots lots more.

James and the Giant Peach? A Wrinkle in Time? I grew up reading these books!

I mean if Harry Potter is on the list then why isn't Animal Farm? We're not okay with witch-craft but we are with communism?

What about Mein Kampf? We've got Captain Underpants on there.

Geez. Why don't we just start burning them while we're at it!


Any list of "the most often banned books in the US in recent years" that doesn't list the Bible FIRST is not to be trusted.

More importantly, forgetting the Bible's number one banned book status allows us to forget how the modern practice of book banning in the US got started:

After watching militant atheists get the Bible and other Christian books banned in recent years, Christians learned, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," and began merrily using the same sorts of arguments about such and such books they didn't care for being "offensive", and precisely because it couldn't be admitted that anti-Christian bigotry was the real reason for banning Bibles, these "join 'em" ban attempts often succeeded, too. Soon, EVERYBODY who could come up with a plausible excuse for being offended got into the act.

It also doesn't help that some children's book authors have consciously and deliberately made a career choice to TRY and get their books banned by being deliberately provocative and boasting of the number of their books that have been banned.

Of course the ideal would be to return to the older practice of defending all but the most extremely offensive children's books against banning on principle, but until secular children's book authors and their supporters are willing to once more make common cause with Christians who'd like to see the bans on THEIR books lifted, too, calls like this will fall on deaf ears...

and deservedly so.


Parents really should be the ones monitoring what their children are reading, not committees who come up with lists. Parents know their children, know specific circumstances, and can read a book and make a much better decision.

No one can take the place of parents.

Lucille Bloomfield

Well put. I agree with you whole-heartedly.

Lucille Bloomfield

And what a sweet story! I love the Make-a-Wish Foundation.


Now we need to find someone to write that chewing tabacco book for five-year-olds.

Well stated - and from librarians everywhere, thanks.


Ok, I have a question for you.

While I agree with you about outright banning, what's your opinion of "restricted" shelves? I heard about this a few years ago. A school had a restricted shelf. Books that were deemed questionable where placed there and children had to have parental permission to check those out. For me it seems the perfect combination: the PARENT can decide if that book is too offensive or not. My child would be able to pick any book she wanted without reading things that I feel are too questionable.

Of course, you'd always have those that would forge parent signitures, but how do you feel about something like that? Some limits on books, but still anyone could read?

melissa @ 1lbr

Very well written. I feel almost 100% the same way. Being a librarian, I'd better be against banning and censorship. But I totally agree parents should be involved in their child's book choices!

Shannon Morris

What a beautiful post! Thanks!! A couple of years ago I was reading a book to my kids when I suddenly figured out the ending: the prince didn't like the princess (he liked her brother) and they hooked up! So instead of finishing the story by reading the words, I made up my own words and finished the story in a way that I felt was more appropriate for my family. I realize, however, that many families are not like mine, some of which are good friends of mine and for whom a book like this would be a helpful way to explain to a child maybe why his or her family is different. Boo on book banning just because it may not coincide with your own particular values.

Dr. Sallie N. Cheinsteen

Pretty hilarious that almost every book I've read in high school is on that list. Besides Harry Potter, I thought two were absolutely ridiculous. To Kill a Mockingbird and Their Eyes were Watching God? Please tell me that both of those correctly spelled titles were typos on that web site. Those two books have moved me almost more than any other. Language and writing truly doesn't get much better than that. Tell me how on earth those are on there. Please. Give me one good reason.


Wow that was such an awesome post! I'm studying to be a librarian and have been taught that book banning [after a complaint from an angry parent] in libraries isn't ok. I wholeheartedly agree with your post! Yay, I might quote you on one of my assignments, you've got such pithy and powerful statements there!


I was assigned The Outsiders for seventh grade book club. And Harry Potter? Why on earth?


What do you do when your child is assigned something you've read and believe is not appropriate for their age level? I read the short story "The Lottery" as a 9th grader and found it very disturbing but I was mature enough to handle it. Now I see that it's being given to 7th graders.


As always, you enlighten our minds. Thanks for pointing out a few things that I had forgotten from my Young Adult lit class that I took only 7 years ago. We were assigned to read something that was locally challenged. There was child abuse and lots of swearing it. I felt uncomfortable reading it, but the lesson I learned was very important. We really need our eyes opened just a little more in some areas, if they aren't already.


quite a few of these banned books we have to read in school! :)
and i agree with whoever said that the golden compass actually increased my faith in God. the whole series did actually.

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