TSS - Censorship

The Life

So I’ve been thinking quite a bit about censorship, primarily censorship in my role of Teacher.  I went to Barnes & Noble two weeks ago to listen to Ellen Hopkins speak and sign books.  Love her.  She’s heartfelt, passionate, and REAL.  Her books are too.  But they’re also controversial.  The topics range from drug abuse, emotional turmoil, prostitution…you get my point.  Rough topics.  Ellen, whom I call “Ellen” because she is THAT kind of down-to-earth person, opened the floor for a Q&A session.  I raised my hand nervously.  I’m curious by nature, but if I feel “all eyes are on me” I tend to clam up.  But I had a question that I REALLY wanted an answer to.  So, my nervousness took second reign.

ME: (paraphrased, cuz, y’know it HAS been two weeks) Your books are constantly being banned or considered controversial.  Do YOU feel that there is an age that is too young for them?

ELLEN: (once again, paraphrased people!!) –something about high school- but for the most part, children will self censor.

And that’s when I vehemently nodded my head, feeling reassured.  Later, I went up to her to get a book signed and rambled (and yes, I’m embarrassed by my ramble) that I was a middle school teacher but I do have her books because I also believe that students will pick up the books only if they’re interested.  And if they’re interested there’s got to be a reason why. So, let them experience the Experience safely through books.  And whether that experience is vicariously or merely because they need reassurance that they’re not alone, let them decide.
Before I get any backlash, let me do some explaining here.  Justifying? Opening your eyes to my world?

Many of my kids didn’t have the life that I had growing up.  We might have struggled, but my mom felt it was important that *I* not be privy to that.  I was a CHILD, after all.  I should be allowed to be a child for as long as possible.  My students don’t always have that option.
The ages of my students are also a factor.  Even though I teach in middle school we do have students who are fifteen (and even older).  

Let me first and foremost say I LOVE MY KIDS.  I treat them as though they were my own.  They know my classroom is a safe environment and that I can be that go-to adult if necessary.  My kids are good even if they have made poor choices.  They are tough.  Because they’ve HAD to be tough.  They get told that they are different and they are treated differently.  I am as candid as possible with them.  I couldn’t imagine being in a different environment or a different school.  My passion is in that classroom.

And sometimes the advice they need or the catharsis they deserve can’t come from me, but rather from a book.  There are many authors that meet their needs.  The Bluford series; Walter Dean Meyers, Ellen Hopkins, Julie Anne Peters.

These books are not for everyone, I agree. But I also believe that a struggling reader is not going to pick up books for a quick thrill. They’ve got the internet for that.

In today’s world, let’s cut some slack.  Let’s trust what the kids are curious about.  Let’s listen to them. Let’s meet their needs.

The Blog

I reviewed:

The Books

This week, I finished
  • On Mystic Lake by Hannah  (okay, this was a read specifically to talk to my PIL, partner-in-laws)
  • Wings by Aprilynne Pike (a partner read with Jenn, check her out)

This up and coming week, I plan on reading


  1. Interesting post. I know what you mean about getting tongue-tied.

    I think the truth is that teachers and librarians are censors in the broadest sense of the world. Our budgets force us to be. We have to choose which books are and which books are not added to our libraries. Not all books are suitable for our students, either, and that affects our choices.

    I wonder if populations like the one you describe are always best served by the more hard-hitting books. I spent ten years teaching students just like yours in grades five through seven. I had all the books you describe on the shelves in my classroom. And the kids went for escapist Goosebumps series type books almost every time. I should state that even those books were controversial choices.

    I was sure that they would choose the more hard-hitting material that spoke directly to their own lives. They self-selected something else. Now, when I think about some of the lives they led, I think escapist reading was just what they needed. In retrospect, I should have provided them with more opportunities to get away from their lives through reading.

  2. Kids who've been abused (physically or sexually), or turned on to drugs by their parents, or who have lost a parent to drugs or... whatever.... tend to be the ones who pick up my books. To know they're not alone. That things will get better. That they are okay.

    Kids who live more like you did (or I did, really) need to develop empathy for the others. And they read my books, too. And I think that is a really good thing. They can live vicariously, and they can also learn to understand the kid at the back of the classroom. The one that gets made fun of, or who pushes back in self-defense.

    Thanks for your question. Thanks for this blog. Thanks for being a teacher who understands all this.

  3. I was going to say just what Ellen said. In my high school library the students who have the toughest lives pick up books by Ellen Hopkins, Walter Dean Myers, and others and they tell me it's nice to read books that show them someone understands and that they are not alone.

  4. Wow, I never thought about it that way. But it makes complete sense.

  5. Bravo to you for this. I worked in a school like that a few years ago and it was the hardest, but most rewarding experience. Those kids needed support and strength from somewhere, and if they found it in a book that might have been somewhat controversial, so be it. I always encourage my students to read what interests them.

    I am sure that when I have my own kids (LONG time in the future), I will encourage the same. I don't want to limit anything. They should be able to read what they feel they need to.

  6. I agree with you. Children should read what they feel that want to. When I was a child no one told me I couldn't read a book and to think people tell other children that just makes my blood boil.


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