Tag Archive: ALA

Another Banned Book Week is upon us and I look forward to this every year. As I have state before in an earlier post, I am against book censorship. I believe in Intellectual Freedom and the right for everyone to choose what they want to read, with a few exceptions. The ALA (American Library Association) has put together this timeline to celebrate 30 years of “Liberating Literature”. It’s also a good way to find a book to read during the week. This guide from the New York Times can give you ways to celebrate Banned Book Week. The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom always puts together a list of the most challenged books for the preceding year, and I think the way they redid the list makes it look rather catchy. I think this year I will try to read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and The Color of Earth  by Tong Hwa-Kim. I encourage everyone to go out and read at least one banned book.

Here’s the list for 2011:

Out of 326 challenges as reported by the Office for Intellectual Freedom

  1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  2. The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
    Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
  4. My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
    Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  6. Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
    Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
  7. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
  8. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
    Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
  9. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
    Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    Reasons: offensive language; racism

Book Censorship

I went to my Crafty Book Club on Thursday and had a great time. Granted the attendance was low, only me, the Youth Services Librarian that runs the program and her teenaged son, but we talked the entire 2 hours about good books, banned ones and the ones we had read for the club. The Librarian had read Fifty Shades of Grey, that new erotic romance that is being dubbed as “mommy porn”. All the women I know are reading it, and I was wondering if it was any good. She pretty much said that it had just as much sex in it as other romances, but with light BDSM, and that the writing was pretty bad. She didn’t think she would read the second book and that pretty much made me lose interest in ever reading it. It’s funny because she compared it to Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, saying that “You know how bad Stephanie Meyer’s writing is in the series, well this woman’s [E L James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey] writing is even worse. According to this article from the UK Newspaper The Telegraph, James wrote Fifty Shades of Grey as “fan fiction”, in homage to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series.” The book review article above  is actually quite good and funny, especially where they say that the book is “a middle-aged mum’s fantasy of what it might be like to kiss “beautiful” Robert Pattinson and tell him, “Have your wicked way with me, do whatever you like!”

Moving on, the real point of this post, which is about book censorship. I mentioned the above book because I read somewhere that libraries were trying to figure out whether or not to have it on their shelves, which is in and of itself, a form of censorship. This topic has always been a bit touchy of me because I’m never 100% sure how I feel about it. On one  hand, I believe in Intellectual Freedom and the right to free speech. I think Banned Book Week is important because it highlights books that people have tried to ban and you can discover some really excellent books that you might not have read otherwise. I mean let’s face it, people like to explore things that they know they’re not supposed to, liked books that are banned or places they’re not supposed to go etc. I think this is especially true with teens, who are trying to push the boundaries and see how far they can get. This is one reason I think Banned Book Week is targeted at them, although they do have children’s books on there as well. Here is the list of Banned/Challenged Books from 2010-2011, the most recent list. On the other hand, I agree with what this author said in this blog post about censorship, “I do believe in a parent’s right to keep an eye on what media their child is consuming and their right to remove items from the pool if they deem it necessary, but I do not believe it is one parent’s duty to police an entire school district’s reading material and choose what is appropriate for all students.”

I never realized that my parents may have been censoring what I read until I got to graduate school and had to do a project on banned books. The book that I eventually picked, Chris Crutcher’s Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, I had never heard of before even though it would’ve come out when I was about 12. I thought the whole concept of the book was interesting, i.e. Eric staying fat for Sarah because she’s got these serious burns over her face (they’ve been friends forever partly due to the fact that he’s obese and she’s scarred) and trying to navigate life together as two teenagers. I’m not gonna lie, the book is filled with reasons why a parent or concerned adult might want to ban it: the 30+ drops of the f-bomb and other curse words, discussions of physical/emotional abuse, suicide, abortion, masturbation, child neglect and more. It’s not an easy book to read at times, but there is a redemptive quality about the book that makes it awesome. Susannah Scheffer says it best in this article:

There are no easy, television endings to [this book]. Good does ultimately triumph over evil, but people remain just as complex as they ever were, and there’s no suggestion that they forgive or heal quickly. In Crutcher’s world, the weak don’t necessarily become strong all of a sudden, and the evil don’t necessarily see the light and repent. Yet the strong, the courageous, the good people do somehow manage to persevere. Love, loyalty, and risk do triumph, so that even if we aren’t left feeling hopeful about humanity in general, we are left feeling a passionate desire to be one of the adults who deserves kids’ trust. These aren’t just books for kids, and they aren’t even just for adults who like young adult literature. They’re for those of us who share Crutcher’s commitment to being one of the good ones, one of the people who does what’s necessary. May we live up to the standard he sets.”

If you are interested in learning more about Intellectual Freedom, check out the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. The Kids’ Right to Read Project is an organization that is part of the National Coalition against Censorship, which promotes freedom to read what you want and advocates for people fighting against book challenges/bans. I like that they include a Book Censorship Toolkit for teachers, parents and kids, and authors, as well as an LGBTQ Right to Read page. For teachers, there is an Anti-Censorship Center through the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). There’s also the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CLBLDF) which is very active in issues of free speech and censorship.

This year celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the Caldecott Medal, the highest award for a children’s picture book. Check out the ALA’s new medal designed by one of my favorite children’s author/illustrators, Brian Selznick. It’s so cool how he has worked in so many classic children’s books such as Madeline, The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Selznick’s own 2008 award winning book), Where the Wild Things Are, Make Way for Ducklings and other characters. Because of the anniversary, I figured I would start my Caldecott challenge. Every year since 2008 (basically since I started library school), I have tried to read as many Caldecott winning books as possible. At first, it was because I was taking a Children’s Literature class and we had to read a bunch. Later it was because I just enjoy reading picture books and I was curious why that year’s winners and honors got picked. I’ve read 63 of the Caldecotts, but that’s not that many considering there’s a total of 240 books. So I’ve got quite awhile to go. Here’s the list in case you are interested.

I had an interview yesterday with my local public library for a part-time Library Assistant position at one of five branches. I think it would be a cool position because it involves doing a little bit of everything, such as circulation, teaching basic computer classes, general reference, as well as helping out with children and teen programs. I believe the interview went well and I’m hoping for a positive response within the next two weeks.

I receive a weekly newsletter called @ Your Library: A Campaign for America’s Libraries  from the ALA, and it had a couple of good articles that I wanted to share. Since the Hunger Games came out today (yay!) and I loved the series, I thought I would share this article about what libraries around the country are doing for teens in response to the movie and promoting the books, and even a library in Pima County, Arizona is getting in on the action. I did something similar to this for a teen program I had to plan for my Young Adult Materials class in Graduate School.

The ALSC has released their list of the 2012 Notable Children’s Recordings, aka audiobooks. As the website says, these audiobooks are “for children 14 years of age and younger of especially commendable quality that demonstrate respect for young people’s intelligence and imagination; exhibit venturesome creativity; and reflect and encourage the interests of children and young adolescents in exemplary ways.” Now I know a lot of people don’t like audiobooks because they think they are boring, but sometime if you have a reluctant reader, they will use audiobooks instead of actual books. It eases them into reading. I personally like them because a lot of times I won’t read a book or just couldn’t get into one, but by listening to it on audiobook, I had a much easier time with it (latest example being Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert).

Now I hadn’t heard of most of the one on the Notable list, but I was excited to hear about Jack Gantos’s Newberry award-winning book Dead End in Norvelt was being read by the author (who I think does a fantastic job on his audio versions) and that The Incorriglible Children of Ashton Place, Book 2: The Hidden Gallery was being performed by my favorite voice actress Katherine Kellgren (of Bloody Jack fame – she does an absolutely brilliant job on that series – for me she is Jacky Faber). I have not read the first book, but would like to, so I could listen to this book.

On a totally random side note, I was browsing through the Teen section on the website for @ Your Library and they mentioned the READ poster that Daniel Radcliffe had recently done, which I had seen before. Whilst looking for that image at the ALA online store, I came across this one (see below) of Ewan McGregor and thought “You know, if Ewan told me to read, I definitely would; though let’s be honest, I would do pretty much anything he asked me to do.” Yay for Scottish guys!

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