Interactive English: Reception

Reading and Listening

In Praise of Reading Dangerously

on October 24, 2012

Some governments, schools, and parents try to prevent children and young adults from reading books that are “dangerous” or not “age appropriate”. Others argue that these “dangerous” books are often good for teaching them about adult issues, challenging their views, and making them more empathetic to different types of people. Besides, dangerous books can be more fun to read and, if so, will get people interested in reading even more.

A student in the US decided to start her own small library containing books that her school had banned. Read her story HERE and tell us your reaction in the comments.

Also, as you read pages 40-63 of Paranoid Park, keep track of the characters and map and answer the following questions (make sure all information is in your journal):

1. What do you think he means by “Skater’s code” on pg40? What might be some of the rules?

2. What does he say about his relationship with Jennifer?

3. What does he mean when he says “Big deal” on pg54?

4. What does he mean on pg58 by saying Jennifer could be “hard on you”?

5. Kids in American high schools spend a lot of time talking about doing “it”. Is it the same for Japanese high school kids? Why or why not?

6. What do you think will happen in the next 20 pages?

If you missed class, I’ll put copies of this week’s reading in the box in front of my office (629).


9 responses to “In Praise of Reading Dangerously

  1. Takumi Nakanishi says:

    People tend to get strongly interested in anything forbidden.
    Imagine how you feel when you are told not to open a box. I’m sure that the temptation to breach the promise drives you, even if the box is an oridinary one.

    I hope that Mr. or Ms. Nekochan won’t get caught because of his or her secret library.

    • tufsmatt says:

      You are exactly right. When you tell someone NOT to do something, suddenly they want to do it. Maybe this was a trick done by the school so that it would make the students want to read more?

  2. Satomi Togari says:

    Other than for “opposing Catholicism, I’d like to know the true reason why the school decided to ban the books on the list(I laughed when I saw my favourites, “The Hunger Games” and “Bridge to Terabithia” on it), inside and outside the school grounds; every student should be allowed to read what they want to, regardless of whether the school is private or not.

    I think what Nekochan is doing is a wonderful thing and it does not deserve a punishment in the least. She’s promoting reading, not prohibiting it. I was also amazed at how much reading she does, and was interesting in some of the books she had in her library.
    Her question was posted 4 years ago, and I wonder what she’s doing now and whether she managed to keep her library.

    Instead of banning all those good reads, I think teen magazines (especially the trashy ones) should be monitored more closely because they influence young girls in a negative way.
    The magazines and manga we have here in Japan aren’t any better; in fact they’re worse.
    Comic books targeted at girls as young as 12 are filled with inappropriate material, and there’s always the risk of young children who can’t tell fiction and reality apart relating to the characters and “copying” them.
    Also, I personally think fashion magazines could sometimes deprive you of your identity (everything is commercial and they just want you to buy the latest stuff) and give you the wrong kind of information. I’m not exactly implying all young girls are naive and believe anything published in magazines, but magazines are always on about “getting attention from the opposite sex” “relationships” and “fashion”, making it seem like they’re the only thing we have in our lives.

    Hopefully we’ll have more teenagers like Nekochan, and that more people get interested into reading and other things too.
    I just wish I had more time to sit down with a good book. : (

    ps. By no doubt I think Paranoid Park would be on Nekochan’s school’s list. : p

    • tufsmatt says:

      Yeah, usually church schools are pretty strict about what their students are exposed to. However, my friends who went to those schools were always much wilder than the rest of us. I think opressing kids (or people) just makes them want to rebel.
      I went to a church school too, but we studied Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird and other “dangerous books”… They were smart to teach us about these difficult topics rather than trying to hide them.
      You’re also right about trashy magazines. I read a media report about how the amount of fashion magazines and MTV consumed by teenagers is directly related to how depressed and unhappy about their body image they are – and not just girls, but boys too!

  3. Shino Yanagimura says:

    I wonder why all these books are banned. The Hunger Games may get banned because the plot of the story is kind of inappropriate, but the Bridge to Terabithia doesn’t seem to have a problem to me. I might think it doesn’t have a problem because I’m japanese, and reading English books is good for your English. But this takes place in where English is a mother tongue, and maybe the teachers thought that it isn’t worth reading. It’s like manga is forbidden in Japan. Students say it isn’t fair, and manga is as worthful to read as normal books. I think the same thing is happening in this situation. Or the school might be just strict.

  4. Wataru Okubo says:


    We need a detective because the ban by the school sounds unnatural. In a situation where few students read books, why did they have to make a list of inappropriate books? Infering from the results, she might have wanted other students to realize the pleasure of reading or wanted to be popular among students (or in Yahoo Answers). So she might have made up a rumour that somehow the books that contain the thoughts against catholicism had been getting popular. Thus, the mission is completed. Few people actually get in trouble and her library automatically gets attention from everyone (and she also gets the opportunities to get to know boys interested in books! She’s a politician….)

    What she’s done is brilliant but, there’re also certain points that we should be careful about. If the same thing happens in an Islamic school or other country where the concept of freedom is different from us, I guess people reacted differently. So in this case, too, considering it’s a catholic private school, they have the right to be strict with their students to some extent. And I think it’s relatively light when they tell you what not to do. Then you just have to put up with it while you’re in school. It’s more stressful when they compel you to do something you don’t want to do just because it’s a rule or because everyone else does it. My junior high school was a bad example in this regard even though it was a normal public one. Many teachers were “GRAND” people and I think it’s really stupid if they actually believed that wearing white socks leads to any success. I mean, what does wearing white socks have to do with life? Seriously, I sometimes look back on those days and wonder if I was in a military.

    There is no doubt that The Catcher in the Rye wasn’t appalled to find its name on the list of victims of restructuring that time as it had gone through such controversies uncountable times since it’s published. And it must not have complained about that like Holden Caulfield, just like Holden Caulfield didn’t follow the way David Copperfield did.
    The controvercy over books is interesting. When I was about 16 years old, even though I didn’t like reading much then, I picked up The Catcher in the Rye because I heard people say like “you should read this while you’re young”(I don’t agree with such kind of opinions though) and, Murakami’s translation came out and the way he translated also caused controvercy. I didn’t suddenly turn into a kid who whines all the time or thinks everyone around me is phony but I felt it affected the way I think, unconsciously. I had no idea why he was so cynical and tired of the situation he was in then but as getting older, I started to understand his feelings little by little. (I’m re-reading it now and I’m enjoying it much, partly because of the jokes; I can’t read in public!) Also, I started to like reading because since then I had never met such a book in the recommendations I got in school. Not only the story but also the language in the book was new to me. So, what happened at her school had happened in me. Thus I think it’s better than nothing to talk about books as it sometimes makes opportunities for students to look at books differently. When I was younger I tend to believe that books are only for good students, which I was not (but neither was I bad) because teachers and adults repeatedly told us to read books. But I believe we find what we like when we “discover” it by ourselves, especially when we are young.
    External influence plays a role regarding one’s reading experience. Even when reading the same book, we’ll get different impressions depending on backgrounds. For example, there must be a difference between reading for summer homework and for curiosity. Or reading a book recommended by friend will be different experience, as well. In that sense, the books in her library must have looked brighter than those in a local library or brand-new books in bookstores.
    Therefore, pushing too much is no good, as well. I’ve seen many students forced to go to cram school after school and started to hate studying or just study for the entrance exams. I always thought something is wrong with this and this whole thing is absolute phony. Good education is important but when I see children forced to do things they don’t like I really feel sorry for them. Usually, such situations don’t make anything positive. It’s a really bad cycle. We need a catcher…

    I was so surprised when I found the name Paul Auster in P.58 in Paranoid Park because there is an author by the same name. I guess it’s a common name but I just couldn’t imagine Paul Auster trying skateboarding tricks!

  5. Shogo Inoue says:

    Banning books at school because of the inappropriate context is just foolish. We could see that the school is trying to stop students from reading something that might have bad affects, but this might have negative affects instead. Some of the books written there were classic which is books which are worth reading. Banning these books are stopping students learn from books.

    For instance, animal farm is a book written about the relationship between Stalin and Trotsky. They are 2 famous people in History, and this books helps students understand history from another view.

    We could understand that school doesn’t want any negative affects from the book itself, but we can’t protect students from these information for ever. Banning information from students will just make them want to get the information even more. Also in time like this, we have lots of places to get information that are worse than those books that were listed there.

    Students should also have the freedom to read what they want to read. Having less and less choice of books that they are able to read will certainly lessen student’s reading time.

  6. saya says:

    I was surprised to know which books were forbidden. Most of them are famous and worth reading.
    I recently read Animal Farm and found it important in terms of the history, but unfortunately it is also listed here.
    I have been thinking about reading Catcher in the Rye because my highschool teacher strongly recommended this book. Knowing this book is in the banning list, I am now even more interested.
    Maybe it is no use school banning those books. On the contrary, it will boost the students’ intrest in them. Whether banned or not doesn’t matter. If children want to read one particular book, he/she will try to obtain that book at any risk. Children are not as childish as adults think.
    Anyway, I really respect Nekochan’s courage. I hope no teacher will find her doing it.
    While reading comments to Nekochan, I found some references to Catholic. I couldn’t understand the details but I noticed difference among countries is reflected here, too. It is impossible in Japan that religion comes up in conversation in this kind of situation.

  7. Ayumi Sugaya says:

    I can’t understand why the teachers banned students for reading these books, and I don’t know why they decided to make such a list to avoid students from reading them. I think making a list of banned books have the opposite effect to what the teachers expected. Students will get more and more interested if they are banned to reading, and try to find what is written in those books.

    Although I can’t agree with the school’s idea of avoiding students from these books, I don’t think this girl’s action is the best way to cope with this issue. Students who against the banned-book list should try to make a chance to discuss the issue with teachers and try to know the reason why they made it. If they can’t get enough reason, they should try to make an action to abolish the rule. If those books don’t have a bad effect for students, it is very strange that they have to read them secretly.

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