The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 2, 2012

Our View: Banning books hurts all ages

The Joplin Globe

— It’s interesting that Banned Books Week is celebrating its 30th birthday, because the event seems to emphasize teen years.

Organized by the American Library Association, Banned Books Week highlights books that have been challenged or banned by public governments, including school boards and libraries. The list of banned books reads almost like a bookstore of beloved classics: Titles from the Bible to “The Satanic Verses” have faced bans.

Lately, we’ve seen more young adult titles appear on the ALA’s top 10 list of banned and challenged books. This year, the top 10 include:

• “ttyl,” by Lauren Myracle, for offensive language, religious viewpoints and explicit sexuality.

• “The Hunger Games,” by Suzanne Collins, for violence, anti-ethnicity, anti-family, insensitivity and offensive language.

• “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie, for offensive language, racism, religious viewpoints and explicit sexuality.

• “Alice” series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, for nudity, offensive language and religious viewpoint.

• “What My Mother Doesn’t Know,” by Sonya Sones, for nudity, offensive language and explicit sexuality.

• “Gossip Girl” series, by Cecily Von Ziegesar, for drugs, offensive language and explicit sexuality.

We were reassured that classics such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Brave New World” were still on the group’s most-challenged list. But seeing six of the top 10 makes us realize that those who seek to censor have changed tactics.

All of those titles were challenged under the label of “inappropriate for age group,” according to the ALA. Using that justification, people attempted — and in a few cases, succeeded — to keep these books from the intended group of readers.

We understand that children in elementary school should not be reading “Go Ask Alice.” But books in the young-adult genre are intended to be read by young adults, and we believe that every YA author is keenly aware who is reading every word they write.

The genre is also becoming more popular with adults — 55 percent of young-adult books are bought by adults, and 78 percent of the adults are buying for themselves, according to a recent study.

“The Hunger Games” might become this generation’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” That’s something to share. Not censor.

Instead of trying to censor books, we should all be reading them together, and talking about them afterward.

We can’t think of a better way to celebrate Banned Books Week.