This post was written by Millie Davis, former director of NCTE’s Intellectual Freedom Center.
During the recognitions for Veterans Day this year, I began to think of books about war that are taught and that have been challenged. By far the most challenged war books are The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers, A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. NCTE has rationales for all these and many more.
Challengers complained about cuss words and violence and about sex and death, all feeling the books were inappropriate for their student—and every other student—because of something in some part of the book. Challengers did not consider the entirety of the book, its plot and themes, or reasons for its inclusion in the curriculum. They didn’t seem to understand that neither the teacher nor school or even the book’s author was advocating that the readers—in this case, the students—behave as the characters do.
The challengers, if they didn’t underestimate their own students, surely underestimated all the other students they wanted to prevent from reading the books. In general, students are quite capable of reading and benefiting from the text that is being taught.
Our students deserve to have the opportunity to read and study books about war that complement our curricula and deserve to be on our classroom library shelves.
Aside from those mentioned here, there are many, many texts from which to choose:
Goodreads Young Adult Books on War
The 30 Greatest War Novels Of All Time
The Perpetual Page Turner blog on books set during a war
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