When is it Appropriate to Ban Books from School Reading Lists?
Is it really “Banning” if we are simply taking a book off a particular reading list?
Laurie Sorensen is my guest blogger today and brings a controversial issue to the fore – book banning. Please read her blog and then feel free to leave comments with your point of view on this particular issue.
Mid March came and went with a Board of Education meeting that I attended. It was my first of such meetings; however, it will not be my last. I was intrigued by the politics of it all. I myself attended it simply because I was on the agenda for the meeting. Not as a speaker, but as an issue that needed approved. You see, I am currently in college to become a teacher, and part of my classes is to observe teachers while they teach. I had to obtain the approval of my local Board of Education in order to do that, which is why I attended the meeting. I am glad however that I did actually go to the meeting itself. I witnessed something I never thought I would in my lifetime. A parent was asking the Board if they would BAN a certain book from the 5th grade reading list.
My ears automatically perked up and I delved into the world of concerned parents everywhere, wondering just what book it was they wished to ban from the school system. The book in question is “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. It is a John Newberry Medal recipient. It is indeed a good book. I checked it out of my local library, where I found it in the young adult section. The main character in it, Jonas, is eleven years old at the beginning of the book, and twelve at the end of it. I read this book as a 39 year old woman, and I saw how the writer intended things to be seen, however I am not all that certain that our 5th graders would be able to make a difference between the story itself and what is real and accepted within society now.
I am not, nor have I ever been a fan of banning books in any way shape or form, but I have to say that I agree with the concerned parents who were at the meeting. I ALSO agree with the parents that were there in support of the book. Yes I agree it is a good book, well worth the read even if I was slightly confused with the way it ended, but I think children of the 5th grade age, really don’t have the maturity this book calls for. Let the 8th or 9th grader’s read the book in class if they must read the book before they graduate, but take it out of the hands of the 5th graders who can in no way interpret the book/story as the writer intended it to be interpreted.
I am a writer, as well as a parent, and a soon to be teacher so I can see this from a few different points of view. Lois Lowry, the writer of “The Giver” has actually penned 21 books that I am aware of, many of which I am told are wonderful books. “The Giver” was actually first published in 1993, and I am sure millions of students have read the book. But we have to ask ourselves, can our 5th grade students read the words she has written in “The Giver”, and come away from it like an adult would? No I don’t think they could.
Just to give a bit of background on this book and I apologize if anything gives it all away here. Jonas, the eleven year old boy who is the books protagonist, is the eldest child in his “family unit”. He has a sister who is three years younger. Now, this is where the story turns slightly weird on you, the father and mother of this “family unit” never conceived these two children. Each “family unit” is given one boy and one girl only. Unless something happens to one of the other of the two children, they will not receive another one. I am left to assume that the parents are together through a carefully arranged matching system. They do NOT have sex, and indeed each person of an age (when puberty sets in) takes a daily pill to put a stop to “the stirrings”. Each “newchild” has a birthmother, who never sees that child, and the “newchild” is cared for, for the first year of its life in the nurturing center. The nurturing center is where it is determined if the “newchild” will thrive and be given to a “family unit” or if it will be “released” for its lack of ability to thrive and be a perfect child. Now in this community where all this takes place, if a person becomes too old to care for themselves, or to function in their job within the community, they are “released” from the community. Being released is exactly like it sounds, at least to the trained eye it is. Being “released” is actually being euthanized. The children get the same birthday, where a ceremony is done for each year up to year 12. Year 12 is when the children become adults and start to “train” for their job assignment. Jonas, the main character was chosen for a great honor, the honor of becoming the new Receiver. The Receiver is the person who holds all the memories of the community, for all the years back as far as they can go. The Receiver is the only individual who feels pain or any sort; this is pain from the memories of all time.
I was highly disturbed with one particular part of the book when a set of identical twins was born to a birthmother; they weighed both children, who were identical in all ways, except weight. The heavier child was taken to the nurturing center to be nurtured until he was given to a “family unit”, while the smaller of the two was “released”. Jonas’s father was the one to have “released” the child, and with the way it was described in the book, it was done without remorse or sadness. This part of the book, I think could have detrimental effects on 5th graders, who I don’t believe have the maturity level for such things in books.
All in all, the Board didn’t rule one way or the other; they sort of skirted the issue, like good politicians can do. I will attend the next meeting, if for no other reason than to see how this pans out. I doubt seriously that the concerned parents will let this go, and I doubt the board will do anything about it either. My children are 15 and 16 years old. I would allow them to read this book, but I also think they have the mental maturity to handle it.
Please feel free to post comments and questions on here; I will do what I can to answer each one.
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Author of Ravenwood: Nights Salvation (Soon to be re-released by Sapphire Blue Publishing)
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