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September 23, 2011

Weekend discussion topic: banned books

JOPLIN, Mo. — Cari Rerat already has a reading plan set up for her child, who is due in a few weeks. She knows what books she’ll let her son read at what ages. She knows what kind of things are too offensive for his eyes.

And when it comes to selecting material, her son is the only person she should control.

The expectant mother is also the teen librarian for the Joplin, Mo., Public Library.

Though she has strong views about what her child can read, she would never tell any other parent what her child is allowed to read.

“I dictate what my child reads,” Rerat said. “Not what other children read. I don’t know them like I know my own child.”

Saturday marks the beginning of Banned Books Week, organized by the American Library Association. The week celebrates and showcases books on the organization’s Top 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books list, released each spring.

SLIDESHOW: Most frequently challenged books

While the actions of motivated parents and school boards make headlines, what gets lost in the shuffle is what goes on in each of our homes. Parents may find themselves daunted when they think about what their own children are reading -- especially when they recognize so many titles in their kids’ own book collections.

From a librarian’s point of view, Rerat said the best thing a parent can do is to read the book in question.

About a year ago, the Stockton, Mo., school board banned “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie. The part that generated the controversy, a section where the main character writes about masturbation, goes for only about 15 sentences, Rerat said.

“And that’s not what that book is about,” Rerat said. “It’s about a boy who lives a powerful life.”

Many times books find themselves challenged for simply a small part, which distracts from a larger message. But parents may not have time to read every book that gets challenged.

Rerat recommended things people can do short of waiting for a good reading day:

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