“Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”
Parents and teachers have an obligation to expose children to a wide variety of subjects, genres, and ideas in order to raise creative thinkers and problem solvers. We do this by giving them access to uncensored books and information.
Here are nine banned or challenged books that will add depth, understanding, and even humor to your child’s reading list.
1. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Bridge to Terabithia is a Newbery Medal winner first published in 1977. According to the ALA this is one of the most frequently challenged books. The challenges cited include adult themes like death, witchcraft, and bad language. This heartbreakingly beautiful story of friendship is essential for upper elementary aged children. While you’re at it, pick up a copy of Paterson’s The Great Gilly Hopkins, another of her award-winning, banned books.
2. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Judy Blume is no stranger to the banned book list. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is only one of several books she has on the list. Others include Blubber, Deenie, Forever, and Tiger Eyes. Blume’s story of Margaret is important for tweens to read to facilitate the conversation about puberty. Blume does an excellent job of capturing the voice of youth that remains timeless from generation to generation. This is true even if people call her work immoral, profane, and sexually explicit.
3. Charlotte’s Webby E.B. White
I’m not sure how a sweet and innocent story like Charlotte’s Web ends up challenged. Every kid should read White’s classic tale. When we hear that books create empathy, this is a story I think of. This example of a friendship between two unlikely animals builds character and creates book lovers. Although, some complained talking animals are blasphemous and Charlotte’s death was inappropriate for children, it is a book we should all have on our shelves.
4. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Some may argue that Lord of the Flies is too mature for middle grade readers, but Golding’s classic novel gives an excellent view into groupthink and the consequences of bullying. It is not surprising to find the title on ALA’s most banned list for racist content, profanity, and defamation to God, women, minorities and the disabled. Golding’s book has value and readers learn much from its uncomfortable, though authentic topics.
5. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Fantasy books are fun and entertaining for young readers. One reason bibliophiles love books is the escape into another word. Allowing children to read books across a broad spectrum creates an opportunity to develop a lifetime love of reading. The Chronicles of Narnia series is a great introduction to the world of fantasy. While not listed on the ALA banned book list, Lewis’s book was challenged because of mysticism, gore, and violence.
6. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Another of the ALA’s most contested books is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. First challenged one month after publication in 1884, it continues to be complained about today. Most recently it was challenged for excessive use of the N-word which some claimed was more damaging than any literary benefit. However, one teacher called Twain’s protested book a staple of American literature and went on to say:
“Every time I taught the novel, Huck’s raft got awfully crowded. We were all of us along for the ride, through thick and thin, for better or for worse. And somewhere along that mighty river, we each, like Huck, did a lot of growing up.”
7. The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
Not every kid is going to find Captain Underpants‘ adventures entertaining, but for kids that do, this is a hilarious book to get your kid reading. While this book has been cited as being inappropriate for young audiences and encouraging kids to disobey authority, it is also creative, fun, and entertaining. This is one book where the protesting grown ups may need to loosen up their belts and laugh a little.
8. The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Curtis’ novel about a black family navigating the Civil Rights Movement is important for children to read. As discussed here, it is a wonderful resource for talking about racism with upper middle grade children. Not everyone agrees with the message in Curtis’ work and some declared the book violent, accused it of containing offensive language, and ignoring the rebellion of a teenager. It must be said that the Civil Rights Movement was violent and glossing over history teaches our children nothing.
9. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Dahl was a creative genius that produced many classic children’s books. Dahl’s works invite children to imagine a world without traditional boundaries. This book was banned because of disobedience to parents, inappropriate language, and reference to drug use; however, the benefits of giving children a view into Dahl’s world may ignite a creative spirit full of potential.
What banned books do you think children should read?
YouTube Channel: Little Book Owl
Featured image via ALA