A side effect of not teaching this semester is that I just missed Banned Books Week, the ALA's celebration of the freedom to read. It was last week, and when I'm in class, I always do something about it with the kids. We look at lists of books that have been challenged or banned and discuss why and read some of them and talk about what they think is appropriate or not, and so on. It's pretty great.
While I'm not advocating reading Stephen King's _It_ to your five-year-old (though I read it probably far too young, in fifth grade, and had nightmares and called it one of my favorite books for years afterwards), or the Penthouse Forum to your grade-schooler (they'll discover it soon enough on their own anyway), I'm pretty strongly against the kind of censorship that book banning is all about. Especially when it's led by the religious nutjobs who think they should be the moral arbiters of our society.
Case in point: The most frequently challenged book in 2008 was _And Tango Makes Three_, a children's book based on a true story about two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo who hatched an egg and raised a baby. It's totally adorable. It won all kinds of best book awards. It is not going to make your child - who will love this story, because penguins! Yay! - grow up any gayer than they otherwise would.
Other than the ridiculous challenges to kids' books (Bridge to Terabithia, The Giver, Goosebumps, In The Night Kitchen, Where's Waldo, Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret, to name a very few), the ones that really irritate me are the challenges to the "classics" (including Catcher in The Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catch-22, Lord of the Flies, Gone With The Wind, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Of Mice and Men, etc). For one reason or another, these books are considered some of the very best written - you can argue with the literary merits if you like, but to ban them? Why don't we want to raise a generation that thinks, that grapples with issues they may not agree with, that takes on the complications of being human?
So go out and read a banned book, and tell people all about it. Score one for the Queer Penguin Alliance!