Sunday, July 22, 2012

Does Fantasy and Fantasizing Harm Children?

Image by Jesse Millan with CC License
Some people think so. And they want to keep certain books out of the hands of children.

Banned Books Week (BBW) is "an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment." This year  Banned Books Week will be held September 30 - October 6, 2012. You can read more about banned and challenged books on the ALA site and check out the Frequently Challenged Books of recent years and why.)

Many contemporary realistic fiction books are banned and challenged for mature content and age-appropriateness. You can see the reasons on the ALA site. 

However, in addition, fantasies such as J. K. Rowlings's Harry Potter, Madeliene L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and Lois Lowry's The Giver have been the frequent object of censorship attempts. 

Have you read any of these books? Why do you think fantasy books like these tend to be the objects of censorship? When you visit the links above about banned and challenged books, make a note of the aspects of the books that are objected to. 

Can you add any other aspects from your own experience that would make you want to “ban” a book?

Is fantasizing harmful to children? Why or why not?

If you want to include these and similar titles of fantasy and science fiction in your classroom how will you address parental concerns? 

Is Banned Books Week something you would (or do) celebrate in your classroom?

Much of this Talk Point is from Charlotte Huck's Children's Literature by Barbara Z. Kiefer, 2010, tenth edition. 


  1. Oh, my.
    I cringe when I hear "banned books."
    I censor books, I know. I keep some out of my classroom. I don't want to be the one who exposes my 7th graders to things their parents should be talking with them about! I've read the books before I do this, however, and if a student picks up this book on his/her own, I will just ask them to not share it with others in my presence. :-/
    What gets me really riled is people who want books that they haven't even READ to be banned. Come on. Seriously?!?!
    Short answer today, and I probably didn't even answer your questions! I love books. Bring 'em on!

  2. Thanks, Joy. It is a difficult subject isn't it? I took a book out of my classroom library last year because I saw some students passing it around during study hall and reading only the inside cover. It was a bit risqué. No one seemed to want to read it, but just talk about what it was about. I censored and removed it from the library one day after school.

    Otherwise, I would say I am anti-censorship. :-/

    Thanks for stopping by,

  3. I think fantasy books are objects of censorship because of the wizardry or magic aspect of them which is unfortunate because it is just fiction. I will be careful with my own classroom library as far as content concerning violence or sexual content. If a student brings their own book and it's something that their parents have bought or are ok with- then I wouldn't censor it- I just may not have it in my own library. I don't think fantasizing is harmful to children unless it's violent video games. Don't we all fantasize a little bit when we watch the Olympics, read a book, watch a movie, or daydream about the beach on a cold wintry day? In order to include the fantasy or science fiction in my classroom, I will want to read it first. I've tried the last two weeks at the library to check out The Giver and A Wrinkle in Time with no luck! If a parent has a concern we can discuss it; if they are extremely uncomfortable with a book choice then I would try to figure out what their concerns are and if we can alleviate those concerns. If not, then I would respect their wishes and the student could read something else. I imagine teaching is hard enough without having parental concerns or drama. I hadn't heard of Banned Books Week until today. I'm not sure if I would celebrate it in the classroom at least the first year of teaching. There is so much to learn and do that first year, I'd want to get some experience before tackling an issue like that.

    1. Carie,
      I think you have a level head as you consider being a teacher. That's a good quality to have.

      I'm curious, are you having a hard time finding The Giver and A Wrinkle in Time because they are popular and checked out?

      I agree about fantasy. We all fantasize, and I think it's good for us and children. Sometimes we might even imagine a better world and create it as a result of our fanciful thinking!

      I have yet to celebrate Banned Books Week too. The reason I pick the image for this post is because I thought maybe I should care more!


    2. I do believe the books were checked out. Next time I go to the library, I'll have to see how many they have.

  4. Freedom of speech is something I believe should be a right not a privilege. This can be extended to books. This doesn't mean children should be exposed to inappropriate materials but, as adults, we should have the choice and ability to discriminate truth, fiction, fact and deceit.

    I do think there may be cases when materials might be banned if they are deliberately misleading or incite others to do harm but this can be a dangerous path. It may lead to minority interests seeking to ban what they find disagreeable. Should we ban science because evolution challenges creationism or intelligent design? Should Harry and his friends be written out because they were wizards? Should we do away with “A Wrinkle in Time” Mrs. Whatsit because she is said to be a celestial creature?

    Is fantasizing harmful to children? How limited we can make their minds if we inhibit their natural ability to fantasize. Providing children grow to discriminate fiction from reality, we can keep their minds free to explore possibilities.

    Personally, I enjoy the ability to fantasize otherwise how would I be able to write fiction? I believe I have the ability to make my own decisions about what is appropriate and would hope I have helped children develop their own skills to fantasize and discriminate.

    There might be one idea we should ban. Lois Lowry’s “The Giver” suggests Jonas discovers the power of knowledge. It seems very dangerous to have knowledge. We are happy only when we don't know any better. Ignorance is bliss, isn’t it?

    Teacher NSW, Australia

    1. Ross,
      Thank you for your thorough comment. I appreciate your insights. I'm looking forward to a new school year where students will discover the power of knowledge though reading!


  5. I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter Series, as well as the Twilight and Hunger Games series. I believe fantasy books create imaginative experiences for children and young teens who read them. Fantasy books are fiction, so regardless of the content, the children reading them will picture what "Hogwarts" looks like, Edward's sparkling body in the sunglight looks like, etc. Books help create higher order thinking and if these books engage the readers and make them want to read, then why take that away? If they are mature enough to read the content, then I'm all for it!

  6. Emily,
    I like what you said about fantasizing. I agree about the importance of creating imaginative experiences. We can live vicariously through Hogwarts, in relating to vampires, and so many other wonderful imaginings.

    Good point about "if they are mature enough to read the content." I remember when my young kindergarten daughter was reading a series of books called Babysitter's Little Sister. I didn't necessarily like some of the topics--family and school troubles I didn't think she was mature enough for. I would share the book with her, reading over her shoulder (because she didn't want us to read the books aloud). We could talk about some of the difficult topics.

    Then it got to be where she could read faster than me--yes, at age 6. She'd get frustrated with me because I wasn't ready for her to turn the page when she was. It was about then that I stopped worrying and let her read on. I told her to share with me anything that she wanted to talk about.

    Could I have kept her from reading? No, even if I thought I could try, I wouldn't.