Chinese Mo Yan (a pen name meaning ‘Don’t Speak’ is the winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for literature. He is the first Chinese citizen to win this award. In 2012 another Chinese citizen, Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize but was denied the right to receive the award. He was serving an 11-year prison sentence, was not permitted to travel and accept his Nobel Peace Prize. It was the first time in 74 years the prestigious $1.2 million Nobel Peace Prize was not handed over.
Both incidents offer the opportunity to have a conversation with children about freedom of expression, censorship and human rights and could not be better timed. They come on the heels of celebrating the week of ‘Freedom to Read’ Sept. 30 - Oct. 6, 2012.
Here are several questions to jump-start your thinking.
~ Is there such a thing as a little bit of censorship?
~ Are books banned in the United States?
~ Should a country have the right to deny an individual the right to accept an award?
~ Can a best seller be a banned book?
~ Do you have a favorite book that is found on the list of challenged books and what might be some of the reasons the book found itself on that list?
Here are several links that offer fodder for that conversation:
ALA Frequently Challenged Books
Banned Books That Shaped America: http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/censorship/bannedbooksthatshapedamerica
Mapping Censorship. This map is drawn from cases documented by ALA and the Kids' Right to Read Project