Those who know me personally, have accepted that I am in fact, an extreme book enthusiast (that's such a nice way of saying book nerd). For those, I'm sure you will find this next topic both interesting and appalling. For others, perhaps your outlook and appreciation for our freedom of speech will be strengthened.
How many of you are aware that there is indeed a process for having books banned within the United States? I'm sure some would say that you figured there would be, and others might reflect and think, "Surely that was phased out decades ago!" Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. It's why we have two major news networks that share their political spins. It's why the first amendment, adopted in 1791, has remained a basis for the views, actions, and opportunities that our country is known for.
However, I'm left to ponder this conundrum: At what point does your "opinion" affect my right to freedom of speech? Freedom of speech is not restricted to verbal communication. Instead, it includes any receiving or delivering of ideas or information, regardless of the medium in which you choose to present it in. Of course, you have extremists in every situation, with "Hate Speech" being one of the primary reasons why freedom of speech can be null and void. Yet, when does banning a published novel fall into a category that deserves removal from society?
The American Library Association publishes a list each year on the most challenged books. "Challenged" should not be confused with expressing personal opinions. They are, however, attempts to remove books from curriculums and libraries, thus limiting the access and choices of others. Many state that material from a certain book was offensive, unsuited for an age group, or contains explicit material. Take a moment to turn on the television or the radio. Teens are constantly surrounded by explicit and offensive material that has no other purpose than to gather attention and make money. Why not ban all songs that reference women in a degrading manner? Why bother with warnings at the beginning of a show stating "mature audiences only" when they could still technically watch it? Why not ban all shows above a PG rating? Why? Because people deserve options and not all people are the same. While I commend parents who monitor what their children are involved in, whether it be groups of friends, activities, and yes, even reading material, let's remember that each young adult novel is now published with a suggested reading age/grade. This is determined by publishers. If your child's age is within the range, but you still don't approve, use your right as a parent to restrict their choices. However, this does not have to be imposed onto others.
I'm shocked at the books listed on this list! Are there no other things in the world that should garner more attention?? Society should be reading MORE, not less. Whether you like Twilight, or maybe you're a Hunger Games fan (or even both), these books have captured the attention of both youths and adults across our nation for a reason. Let's celebrate that instead of shutting out so many opportunities that could engage someone to open up a book or two.
So go ahead, challenge and ban as many books as you like. Chances are, you'll create a stir and generate just enough publicity to make people go to a bookstore and pick it up. Or better yet, let's focus on issues that truly affect younger audiences: healthy eating habits, bullying issues, image appreciation, drug prevention, drunk driving...I could continue with this list, but I suppose you get the idea.
Ok, my book rant is over. If you finished reading this note, thank you. Reader Girlz, a YA book review blog, has a challenge for those who want to spread awareness on this issue with a campaign called "Rock the Drop". If interested, check out their website that is listed below. If you want to learn more about the topic in general, the American Library Association (ALA) has a complete list of the most challenged books, as well as more information on the banning process and how it hinders our freedom of speech and choice. Some of the books that are listed are currently considered some of the most popular books among a variety of audiences. It's obvious that they would not result in a successful banning. (I could only imagine the turmoil this country would go through if people were not able to get their Edward Cullen and Jacob Black fix.) Yet, before you take steps to limit the options of others, take a moment to ask yourself, "Is this truly harmful, or simply not what I would choose?" Realize that you were able to say "choose", where others may not have that option.