Banned Books Week 2023

For Banned Books Week, Natalie plays a game to guess why 5 children's books have been banned. Can you guess the answer?

Banned Books Week 2023

Hey, and welcome back to Primary Focus. This week is my favorite week of the year, Banned Books Week.

Banned Book Week is this celebration, uh, week of awareness,  where we bring to light books that people in the United States have banned or attempted to ban. This list is upheld by the American Library Association

. Often these are books that are super popular and a small group of people is trying to get these books pulled off of shelves.

I find it interesting to keep up with, but I also find it really important because these people that want to ban books are getting in the way of the free speech that were promised in the United States.

I can totally understand not wanting your child to read a certain book, something not being of your taste or interest, but going to the effort to actually pull it off of shelves is pretty extreme to me. Wouldn't you just not buy the book or maybe not provide it to your own children to read? Why do we have to completely erase it?

I told my friend Amanda what I was working on, and she researched a list of books that I should get from the library. Hi, Amanda.

Have fun figuring out why these books are banned.

Amanda did all the research, sent me the list, and I went to go get them from the library. Some of these books I knew, some of them I did not, but one thing that's in common with all five of these books is that I don't know why they were banned.  Amanda sent my husband the reasons, he printed them out and put them in these envelopes.

So I will be finding out with you why these books were banned, but not before I take a stab myself to try and figure out what's so scandalous about children's  so we've got five books we're going to look at today, and I guess let's dive in.

Okay, so Junie B. Jones. Now, Junie B. Jones is a series of books.   I used to read these to my first grade class, and I think they're pretty hilarious. I actually did a review of these books a few years ago.

I'll link the video for you. Junie B. Jones is this foul mouthed little kid that breaks a lot of rules, and just can't seem to get anything right. A lot of kids love reading her books because they're so funny and outrageous.  Why they would be banned.

So Junie B. Jones does have kind of a potty mouth, and I actually, when I would read these books to my students would kind of bleep out a lot of the words that she said. She says stupid and dumb and just the kind of words that I didn't want my students to think that it was okay for them to repeat. Again, she's not really cussing. It's more like kindergarten cuss words and not, not real adult ones.  My guess is maybe this is just kind of like foul language for young kids, and that's why somebody would want to ban it. Let me get the envelope out.

This is a quote. Poor social values taught by the books and Junie B. Jones not being considered a good role model due to her mouthiness, bad spelling, and grammar, such as saying run to speedy quick or did a shrug. Bad grammar! Hey, that's why we want to ban a book!

You can't ban a book for this. Guys, you can't ban a book because she has bad grammar. Oh my gosh,

I don't think you need to take this off a shelf. Long live Junie B. Jones.

Okay, let's get another one. This next one is actually so scandalous that I couldn't get a copy of it from the library. Every single copy in all the branches in the city I live in was checked out. And this is Charlotte's Web. If you've read Charlotte's Web, as you know, this is a disgusting, terrible book that nobody should ever read.

Is it cause she is it because Charlotte dies at the end? No spoilers.

A group of concerned parents wanted this book banned in 2006. They tried to have this book from classrooms because they found the books talking animals to be disrespectful to God.

Okay, well,

If your concern is talking animals in children's books and general media, You've got a really big hill to climb up on this.  I don't think that's the hill I'm gonna die on, because where do you even start Wow.

The next one has caused quite a bit of controversy.  Amanda said that she found this one on a list,  for a North Carolina school district that a parent has complained and wants this banned, and it's currently up for debate if it will be banned or not.

This book is called Amazing You Getting Smart About Your Private Parts. It is written by Dr. Gail Saltz. I love that it's a doctor that wrote this. It begins with a note to parents. If you're like most parents, you may find that your preschool child is beginning to ask questions about his or her body. Hopefully this book will be a useful tool to guide you through those first conversations about sexuality.

Okay. I think we found it here. Well let's look at the pictures. Take a look at yourself in the mirror, what do you see? And I'm kind of just going through here.  This is reading like a children's book, like an educational Alright, okay. Coming in hot with the uterus. So we are, I'm just gonna, I myself wouldn't want this video to get banned on YouTube. The uterus. We are talking about the names of all the male private parts.

I don't think that these are bad things, but I could see how a parent could be picking and choosing when the time comes to talk about this.   It's addressing that question of like, where do babies come from? Kids see pregnant women, maybe they're getting more siblings or cousins born into the family, and they ask.

it is saying here, When a man and a woman love each other and decide that they want to have a baby, a man's sperm joins with a woman's egg. From the egg and sperm, a baby will grow. I can definitely see how this would rile people up.

What I do really appreciate here,  a lot of people are just saying to kids, like, a baby grows in the tummy . think that can be really confusing  to kids if they never make the connection that it's not the tummy that the baby is growing in.

I've got the envelope here, amazing you, private parts, and talking about reproductive and sexual health. I get it.

I don't think this book is inappropriate, and actually what I'm thinking about is one of my best friends grew up in Europe, and she went to high school in the United States.

I remember going over to  her childhood bedroom, looking at the books on the shelves, and there was a kid's, like, a book like this.

And I remember being in high school, probably 14 or 15 years old, and being shocked. Oh my gosh, you were taught about these things as a little kid? And she was shocked that I was shocked and said, this is so normal, of course I was taught about these things.

And I think that really opened up my perspective to me that there's Nothing wrong with scientific names for parts or  or answering questions that kids have about these things. I do think that, based on age, you can share exactly what you need to share to answer a question .

I think you can give simple answers to questions and kids will be satisfied. They'll learn things as they grow up.

If you're a parent, then you can kind of decide what's right for you, and what's right for your family. I don't think this needs to be taken off shelves.

This next book, I actually was not able to check out from the library. It was just filled with scandal   I got my hands on it and my hand started burning cause it was, Oh, no. This book, is a Caldecott Award winner, won in 2014, which means that it is highly esteemed, and it was voted on by many people as, one of the most influential best children's books of the year.

All the copies available for checkout were checked out, and the library keeps one on hand as a reference book because it was an award winner, so that there's always access to it.  I got to read it,

this book, Knock Knock, I was tearing up in the library. And when I say I was tearing up in the library, I was in like, the kids section of the library with all the children's books surrounded by toddlers.  It is beautiful.  The illustrations, the words are beautiful.

I think is written for children going through something, and I think it shines a light and lets children be seen for who they are and what they are going through.  Knock Knock is the story of a young boy, he was talking about, his dad knocking on the door and,  coming down to say goodnight and,  lay down with him.

One night his dad stops coming home. And um, he misses his dad and he's writing a letter. Why am I crying? I feel so emotional. This book was beautiful. It's the story and the boy starts writing letters. Wow. Wow. The boy starts questioning. The boy starts questioning, like, who's gonna teach me to be a man?

Like, who's gonna teach me how to shave? And, and, who's gonna, who am I gonna see how tall I am if I'm not growing up next to you?  It's written like a letter to the dad. one day he gets a letter back from the dad, and the dad is answering all these questions, and it's a very sweet.

And it's a very sad story,  When I was, I wasn't trying to figure out why it was banned, but when I just was looking up some basic information about the book, there was an interview with the author . The author was explaining that his father was incarcerated when he was a child.

And this book is for children that are experiencing that and what it's like to lose a parent, but they're not fully gone, but they're not going to be there for them.  It doesn't say that in the book. It's left sort of an open page. I think this would be an excellent book if a family is going through a divorce or like a parent leaves them

it's left open for this question of like, where is my parent? So it's beautiful. I see why I won all these awards. Clearly I am like, falling apart trying to talk about it. It's heavy material though.

It's very heavy and I could see like, if people get a whiff of , Oh, a parent's in jail.  I don't want kids reading about that. So that's my guess. let's see, I've got the envelope here before I completely lose it. Okay, this book might be banned in Charlotte, North Carolina. An individual has put forward a complaint concerned about the portrayal of black men leaving their children.

I see it. I see it. And I think the portrayal of people in our media, in particular minorities, In our media, says a lot. People are just trying to have more inclusion in our media. And I could see that. And I could see how it's upsetting and the characters are black in the book.

I don't think you should be banning a book over it. I think that's a decision not to buy the book or not to read the book. I get it, but we can't be out here banning books.

Alright. The grand finale. Captain Underpants.

I have to tell you, when I was teaching  the kids, these were hot in the library.  You had to like pry these books out of their hands when it was return day. So that other kids who were on the wait list could get them.

They are filled with potty language. I did not love seeing kids read them when we were in class. I did not stalk Captain Underpants books in my class library because it is just potty language and when you've got 20 kids in class that stuff is contagious and they're in stitches and there's fart noises and I, oof, it just is a lot.

I will also say these books are not supposed to be for five year olds. They are for more like maybe second grade and up. The reading level's a little bit higher  there is a plot to this. There's stuff going on and Captain Underpants is a real live superhero.

I guess the potty mouth language is why people wouldn't want it. And I get it. It's contagious. I too have been victimized by Captain Underpants books.

That said kids love these books and they love to read them. And if you have a child that is a reluctant reader, this might just. Get them reading from cover to cover. So let's see if I'm right. Captain Underpants.

Here's what it says. Captain Underpants, So Many Reasons, Potty Language, and Later in the Series, One Character is Revealed to be Gay. What?

They look into the future. George and Harold meet their future selves and get a glimpse of their life as adults with families. Oh, that's cute. Here's Pilkey's description of the scene. Quote, Old George, his wife and kids, Mina and Nick, sat on the couch, while old Harold, his husband and their twins, Owen and Kai, plopped down on the large beanbag chair.

Alright, well I get it. That's a smoking gun when it comes to banning a book. But, that's actually very sweet, you know?

I was curious when it said they revealed a character was gay how they would do that. Looking into your future, the vision of a future, and seeing yourself like that, that's beautiful. What it does is it makes that character connect a little more with somebody else. Right?

Like, he's gonna be running around fighting crime in his underpants or whatever they do in that book. But,  just to see,  one, you've got a future. You're working towards something, and there are things in your life to look forward to. And two, you're gonna find your version of security and hopefully happiness.

Mm. I love that.

Welp. my brain is mush and it is ruined from touching and handling and reading all of these banned, awful, nasty, nasty books. I hope you read one of these. These are just books, and they're about people.  And as the great Regina Spector says, people are just people. They shouldn't make you nervous. My name's Natalie. I hope you liked this video.