Banned Books Week!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Today I'm going to talk about something I am very passionate about: books! I love to read, I have always loved to read. I have been extremely lucky to grow up with parents who do not try to censure the materials I want to read.

Sure, some of the books I read in middle school talked about sex. Instead of censuring me from reading those books, my parents sat me down and had real conversations with me about sex and growing up.

Some of the books I read talked about drugs and alcohol. My teachers did not refuse to let me take out the book in class and read it to myself, instead they encouraged me to voice my concerns and questions. My parents talked to me about the dangers of drug use, and helped me navigate adolescence without feeling like I needed substance abuse.

Books are intended to help us explore our world, and discover new things about the people, places, and ideas around us. If I am not reading something new or controversial, then what is the point? Every year when I see the top banned books of the year, I get so angry. Who would even want to censure children from reading?! That is the opposite of encouragement!

For that reason, I am going to list some of my favorite books on the banned book list, and why I think everyone should have the opportunity to read them.

1. Captain Underpants Series: Reason- "Unsuited for age group, offensive language, violence"

 Okay, seriously? First off, the "violence" in these books in cartoonish. And if you let your kids watch Spongebob Squarepants, you will see worse violence than in these books. Secondly, if by "offensive language" you mean the copious amount of mentions of "underpants", aren't you just glad someone is teaching your 7 year old to wear clean underwear?

This serious is tons of fun! They are a great starter serious for chapter books for kids learning to read. I can say from experience, it is hard to find books that boys will read without squirming saying it's a "girl" book. If they are interested in it, and it gets them excited about reading, I say let them go for it!

2. The Hunger Games: Reason- "Religious viewpoint,  unsuited to age group, desensitizes children to murder and war."

So first off, there is no way to "desensitize" a person to war. We see violence every single day in our society. We live in fear of terrorist attacks, war, and nuclear invasion. If your fear is a child being desensitized to that, then maybe they actually need a book like this. Sit them down, and talk about these issues. Talk about how sad it is, how upsetting it is, and how you feel about the violence of the world. Reading a book is not going to convince a kid that murder is a good thing. In fact, when you read this book, the violence breaks your heart and makes you want to see a glimpse of humanity in the world.

3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian: Reason- "Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group."

I'm not sure what about this book makes you think it is racist, cause it is not explicitly racist. If you think it is racist against Indians, I hate to tell you this, but that is what those people go through every day of their lives. Calling attention to their plights is important. Kids need to know what happens to minorities in this country, and we need to talk to them about how to fix these problems and show compassion. If you think it is racist against white people: just, no. Reverse racism does not exist, and to say it does is just shoving your white privilege in the face of those less fortunate than you. This book goes a long way in showing kids how minorities live.

As far as offensive language is concerned, do you use that language? Have you ever heard it before? You can talk to your children about appropriate and inappropriate language. It is up to us to talk to kids about language so that when they do hear it, they know what to do and how to respond. Teach your kids that some words are bad words and that we shouldn't use them ourselves.

4. Looking for Alaska: Reason- "Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking, unsuited for age group/sexually explicit"

I'm going to let John Green, the author of this award winning novel explain this one to you.

I could literally go on for days talking about all the books that have been challenged, and how censuring our kids books is not good for their education. As a person going into education, one of my biggest fears is having a parent challenge a book I want to read with my students. I literally am going to have to practice my poker face so I don't explode, because it will inevitably happen some day. The best thing for us to do is have definitive reasons for reading books to children, and show that the lessons they learn through reading these books is far more valuable than if we refuse to let them read a book we disagree with.

Top 10 list of banned books for 2013:

Shakespeare: In Which I Rant

Thursday, September 11, 2014

So, I've never been huge on blogging, but lately whenever I have seemingly random (but totally awesome) ideas, I will sit up in bed all night thinking and expanding about them. I needed a place to vent, talk about my thoughts. So here I am!

Today, I want to talk about Shakespeare.

Super attractive guy, I know.
First off, I know what everyone is thinking. "Ew. Shakespeare? Boring." But I used to be like you too. I remember sitting in my high school desk reading Romeo and Juliet, confused by the language and painstakingly bored. And then I got to college, and I began taking a few Shakespeare courses where my eyes were opened to how awesome Shakespeare can be. And what caused this revelation? Decent teaching.

Pretty cool stuff, if you ask me.
First off, in college they actually taught us how to read Shakespeare properly so that it actually made
sense. You see, in high school they are so worried about iambic pentameter and rhyme schemes that they never slow down and tell you to read it like you would anything else. In high school they teach you to read to the end of a line and then pause. But in reality, you should be reading to the punctuation marks LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE. I think that if someone had actually practiced reading it aloud and showing us how to do it, we wouldn't have hated it so much.

In high school, they are focussed entirely on reading the text (with the exception of that one Romeo and Juliet movie where they fast forward through the sex scene like it doesn't exist). I have to say, I completely disagree with this. I was able to travel to Stratford and London for three weeks as part of a college course. I was amazed with the Shakespeare shows I saw, and it made me fall in love with reading Shakespeare. If our schools focused on seeing Shakespeare performed, as it was intended to be, then students would be more apt to enjoy and pay attention (especially if they get a cool field trip to the theater out of it).


Reading the text aloud. I can't tell you how much of a difference this can make. How long does it take to read through an entire Shakespearean play? Like three hours, max? If high school teachers encouraged students to form study groups and read the text aloud, either in class or as homework, then they would 1) enjoy it a lot more since they are interacting with their peers and 2) understand the text a lot more since they can hear the dialogue and not focus on who the characters are. Every Shakespeare class I have taken, I have read some aloud and some to myself. Without fail, the plays we read aloud we understand better, talk about more, and overall enjoy studying more. If high school teachers started doing this at that level, we would have more students comprehending and enjoying Shakespearean texts.

Church where Shakespeare is buried. 

Lastly, censoring the text. Because in high school the teachers usually have a limited amount of time to read and discuss a text, a lot of material gets left out. Usually, the material that must be forgotten is the interesting and controversial stuff. For example, did you know that there is pretty good evidence that Ophelia in Hamlet is pregnant and considering (if not already had) an abortion? Did you know that in Othello, Desdemona's father only has a problem with Othello because he is black and considered "monstrous"? How about the number of sex jokes (specifically oral sex) in Taming of the Shrew? These are the kind of things found in the text that high school teachers leave out, either due to time constraints or fear of retaliation from conservative parents. If we could actually use the deeper themes and motifs found in Shakespeare's plays to talk about the issues surrounding teenagers, their attention would be held a lot longer, and they would be more apt to stay involved in class discussion.
So that's the end of my rant about Shakespeare. I love Shakespeare, and I really wish other people could have positive experiences with him too. He is hilarious and serious and silly and dramatic all at the same time, and personally I think that is awesome.

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