If you really want to get an adolescent's attention, tell them they're not allowed to do something. At this developmental stage, they are figuring out who they are (or want to be) and striving for independence; they're almost hardwired to question authority. That's why banned Books Week, which this year is September 24-30, is a perfect time to get your tweens and teens both reading and thinking about intellectual freedom.
The annual event takes on even greater importance this year as the Office for Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association (ALA) reports a 17% increase in book censorship complaints in 2016. Since most challenges are not reported, the actual number is probably much higher.
That's the bad news. The good news is that, of the challenges recorded by the ALA, only about 10% are removed from communal shelves.
"While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read," the ALA notes on its Banned Books Week site.
Often, books that seem edgy at the time of publication go on to become classics. At least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the targets of ban attempts.
Check out the Top Ten Challenged Books of 2016:
Are all these books appropriate for all kids? Nope. But they're invitations to talk with your kids about what you think they're ready for, why you may or may not agree with the ideas in them, and why you oppose censorship of ideas, even if you disagree with them.
Consider reading a banned book with your teens and then talking about it - the book itself, why people may have wanted to ban it, and what your child thinks about that.
Or opt for a classic that they may be reading in school, like Lord of the Flies by William Golding, 1984 by George Orwell, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.
One of the great things about adolescents is that they can think critically. Teach them do so about what they read, define their own values, and make up their own minds about books. Make them feel empowered. The tag line of Banned Book Week is "Words Have Power." Remind our kids that their words have power, too.
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