8 Favorite Banned Books From Literacy Partners Staff And Friends

Literacy Partners works hard to equip parents with tools to navigate their lives, participate fully in society, and build strong relationships with their children. Giving kids opportunities to grow involves providing them with access to the resources and support they need to thrive. Once this access is threatened, the paths to knowledge are denied. This is what happens when parents and their children cannot read.

Literacy Partners believes that everyone should have the freedom to read. It’s important that everyone, in every part of our society, sees, hears, and engages with all of the ideas in our intellectual marketplace. The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. Being able to express our ideas without fearing censorship, and making knowledge and ideas available are conducive to fostering education, growing minds, and increasing learning. This is why we’re celebrating Banned Books Week this year.

To celebrate, we asked our staff to share their favorite banned books—whether from their experiences as children, young adults, or as parents—with you, our supporters.


1. Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown (illustrated by Clement Hurd)

goodnight-moon

Lionel Ouelette, Director of Programs at Literacy Partners

What caused the controversy surrounding this book?

Smoking! HarperCollins digitally altered Clement Hurd’s (the illustrator’s) photo on the back cover to get rid of the cigarette in his hand. The publisher said it wanted to avoid the appearance of encouraging smoking and altered the photo after getting permission from the illustrator’s estate.

Why do you love this banned book?

Some of my best memories as a child are of reading this book with my sister and my grandmother. Every kid should have this experience.

Why is literacy important to you?

Literacy is the key to opening just about every door in life. Without it, navigating the world is impossibly hard.


2. Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison

song-of-solomon-manzar

Manzar, Manager of Special Projects at Literacy Partners

Reason for being banned?

Demeaning language, descriptive sex scenes, violent imagery, profanity, and suicide.

Why do you love this banned book?

I love Song of Solomon because it mixes the mystical with the real in a way that gives life and reason to family histories and the characters that have come before us. After all it is those legends and stories that we look to in order to understand where we come from.

Why is literacy important to you?

Books like are windows and mirrors to the soul.


3. Where The Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

where-the-wild-things-are-maurice-sendak

Phil Cameron, Adult Basic Education and High School Equivalency Teacher at Literacy Partners

Reason for being banned?

Some considered it to promote witchcraft and supernatural events. Some say it’s “too dark.”

What do you love about this banned book? 

The artwork is amazing!

Why is literacy important to you?

Literacy is the key to independence.


4. The Lorax, Dr. Seuss

the-lorax-gaby

Gabriela Philo, Development Manager at Literacy Partners

Reason for being banned?

Critics say it criminalized the timber industry and would persuade children to oppose logging.

Why do you love this banned book?

It provides a clear moral and ethical claim against deforestation efforts… in a fun way!

Why is literacy important to you? 

Because it can empower you to explore your creativity.


5. Lord of the Flies, William Golding

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Chaz Frazer, Data Manager at Literacy Partners

Reason for being banned?

Profanity, extreme violence. In one school district, the book was challenged on the grounds that it was “demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal.”

What do you love about this banned book?

I enjoyed the microcosm of society and the empowerment of the boys versus the mob mentality, and their struggle to maintain a sense of civility in the face of an environment without established, organized government rule. I understood this even as an adolescent.

Why is literacy important to you?

Literacy can be many things: an escape to a place where your imagination creates unique mental images that even those reading the same book cannot duplicate, a way to empower yourself through knowledge, and a way to ensure that the generations that come after us have a true record of our written and cultural history, never to be forgotten.


6. Northern Lights (also known as The Golden Compass), Philip Pullman

northern-lights-hannah

Hannah Lyles, Communications Manager at Literacy Partners

Reason for being banned?

Anti-Christian messages.

Why do you love this banned book?

Everything! From the flying witches, the talking polar bears, the love story, traveling… this book took my breath away as a child. Rereading it later as an adult is still rewarding because now I better understand the references to religion and the true weight of the issues discussed (for example, kidnapping). I grew up being told by adults that fantasy is not important because it isn’t real. I can’t disagree more! This fantasy book proves that you can talk a lot about current affairs in a make-believe context, all while making it incredibly relevant and topical. Funnily enough, taking things out of this world and putting them in another world can allow us to more easily separate the facts from fiction.

Why is literacy important to you?

Literacy is a friend that will take you places. From reading street signs from my parents’ car as a kid to continually delving into books as an adult, I don’t know what I would do without the ability to read and write. I have been doing both since I can remember. I am a lover of words and I am certain that this relationship will never end.


 7. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

handmaids-tale

Julia M. Collins, Founder of girlslikeyouandme.com, 20-time champion on the quiz show Jeopardy! and Literacy Partners supporter

What do you do?

I run a website called girlslikeyouandme.com where women share their stories about what they do, why they like it, and how they’re connected to the girls they were growing up. I am also a 20-time Jeopardy! champion, and consequently a poster child for how rewarding reading can be. (Although I think that reading is its own reward.)

Why do you love this banned book?

The Handmaid’s Tale is a beautifully written, complex story, and a mystery: What is this society Offred lives in and how did it come to be? (Margaret Atwood has discussed the “how” here and here.) It explores two issues I feel really passionately about: 1) Women’s autonomy over their lives, their bodies, their careers, and their engagement with the world and 2) women telling their own stories, something I’ve now focused on professionally. Historically, women haven’t been allowed either of those things, and it’s impossible to read it without thinking about how women’s basic humanity is not universally accepted and is often under attack. Women who tell their own stories are often dismissed, marginalized, or outright not believed.

Why is literacy important to you?

“Reader” is one of the primary ways I define myself, and I cannot imagine my life without reading. To be reading is to be learning, to be thinking, to be engaging with the world, with ideas, with other people through shared experiences or differing points of view. Literacy is fundamental to accessing opportunity, and everyone should have that access.

Follow Julia on Twitter.


8. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving

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Stephanie Meyers, Associate Director of Strategy and Social Media, Inc. Magazine

Reason for being banned?

Views on religion and criticism of the U.S. government for the Vietnam War.

What you love about this banned book?

I didn’t realize how many of my favorite books are on Most Challenged lists (The Giver, The Glass Castle, The Handmaid’s Tale, to name a few), but A Prayer for Owen Meany stands out: it’s one of the very few books where I actually felt physically changed by the experience of reading it. When I finished, the entire world seemed like a new and more mysterious place. In fact, I loved it so much that I’ve been scared to reread it! So this copy has followed me to 7 different addresses in 3 states, but I’ve only read it once.

Why is literacy important to you?

It’s a family joke that I was the world’s worst child… until I learned to read. Aside from the enormous practical value of literacy, there’s nothing like being able to lose yourself in a story, activate your imagination, and discover new worlds, no matter where you are, all by staring at some tiny markings on pieces of paper.

Read Inc. magazine articles by Stephanie here or follow her on Twitter.

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