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Banned books at your Summit Library

DANA CHRISTIANSENspecial to the daily

The recent displays promoting awareness of Banned Book Week sometimes seem as old and as quaint as a pair of 8-foot long wooden skis crossed over the mantel. Unfortunately the practice of challenging and banning books is as prevalent as ever. According to the American Library Association, almost as many books were challenged in 2009 as a decade ago – and that’s only counting the number of challenged or banned books reported to the ALA. It is impossible to know how many books were taken off of library shelves to avoid controversy or to forestall a potential complaint.The 10 most frequently challenged books in 2009 were Lauren Myracle’s series “ttyl, ttfn, l8r, g8r,” “And Tango Makes Three” (a children’s picture book), “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the “Twilight” series, “Catcher in the Rye,” “The Color Purple,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “My Sister’s Keeper,” “The Chocolate War” and “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things.” This was the first time in five years that “Harry Potter” was not in the top 10.Some bans or challenges have come from individuals seeking the spotlight, e.g., Pastor Terry Jones and his planned Quran burning in Florida. Some have been raised by individuals with an agenda. Four Wisconsin members of the Christian Civil Liberties Union sued the West Bend Community Memorial Library, primarily because of the homosexual content in “Baby Be-Bop.” Their lawsuit further asked that West Bend Mayor Kristine Deiss resign and the “racist book be removed and publicly burned or destroyed as a deterrent to repeating this offensive conduct.”Other books have been banned because those behind the ban knew not of what they spoke. Texas State Board of Education member Pat Hardy argued for the proposed ban of a particular book because other books this author had written were for adults and contained “very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system.” The Board of Education agreed, and therefore third graders in Texas can no longer read “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?,” which Amazon.com described as a “classic picture book” and which was written by Bill Martin, Jr. The Board of Education apparently confused him with a philosophy professor by the name of Bill Martin, who had written “Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation.”The majority of challenges have come from parents objecting to books used in the curricula of various schools. Most of the books from the top 10 of 2009 listed above are books written for children and young adults. The complaints about these books include offensive language, racism, sexually explicit material, homosexuality and “unsuited to age group.” The majority of these parents were not frothing at the mouth firebrands but rather parents who, because of their particular family morals, did not want their children to be required to read certain materials. This will be the battleground of the future as the challenge itself seems so reasonable. It is difficult in regard to any given book to argue, “No, your child should be required to read sexually explicit material, or be exposed to blatant racism.” Furthermore, most people would agree that children should not be required to read books that their families find objectionable. By the same token, however, most people would also agree that parents have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children, but only their children, to what they can read and view. For when a book is challenged and banned for everyone, then it is lost in that entire community, be it a class, a school, a city, a county, a state or a nation. As John Milton wrote almost 400 years ago, “He who destroys a good book kills reason itself.”


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