Censorship, books and Banned Book Week

So, I was over at 5 Minutes for Books, and came across a wonderful post about censorship in selection of books – both that you read for yourself and books that you would allow your child to read. It really got me thinking about being a parent and reading material etc. This week is Banned Book Week.  Boy, I know that this can be a controversial topic!

I grew up in a household where I was encouraged to read. My mom is a librarian and she would bring home stacks of books for me to read.  When I was in elementary school and had no friends (I was a tomboy, and smart to boot, which made me an outcast), I would spend my non-homework time devouring books and playing video games. I read Gone With the Wind and Dracula for the first time when I was 11. I dressed up as Scarlet O’Hara for Halloween. I don’t ever remember being told I couldn’t read a book, especially when I got to high school and had free reign of the town and school library. Because of this, I’m convinced that I developed an even greater love for reading and an openmindedness – I am willing to try to read anything once. There are going to be books that I hate, which means I won’t return to that genre or author ever again and there are going to be authors that I return to again and again. The books that have touched me and continue to touch me, interestingly enough, are on the banned book list or have been challenged at some point – Bridge to Terebithia, The Catcher in the Rye, the Harry Potter series, The Handmaid’s Tale, Forever, The Color Purple, Go Ask Alice, To Kill A Mockingbird (perhaps the single book that has influenced me the most in my life – it made me want to become a lawyer, to become like Atticus), and the Lord of the Flies, among others. These are books that I would never have read if my parents or my school banned them.

As an adult reader, I don’t find that I censor myself that much at all. I do have my likes and dislikes.  However, I try everything at least once and try to have an open mind. If I like it great. If I don’t, I won’t go back.  I firmly believe in reading everything because, as a parent, I want to know what my child will be exposed to and want to be able to talk to him about what he’s reading. I can’t do that if I don’t read it myself. I want to be prepared – children KNOW when you’re BS’ing them. And I want to be straight with Nate. (Rhyme – poet, didn’t know it – HAHAHA).

I also have a problem with banning books for a few reasons.

  1. We have the First Amendment. Yes, there are limitations. But some of these books don’t fall into those limitations.  I mean, seriously.  This country is amazing because we have the freedom to write and read and discuss just about anything we want, within the limitation set out by the Supreme Court. By banning books, the States, schools, towns etc. walk a very thin line and strangle the free flow of ideas that is so important and vital to our country.  It seems to me that sometimes, books get banned because people get scared that children or other family or whoever read something that is different and that it encourages their childlren to think on their own.
  2. It takes over my job as a parent – I think that am fully capable of discussing what my child reads with him.  I am smart. I read a lot. I get paid to think on my feet and  I am fully able to discuss these things with my child in a way that meshes with my  parenting philosophy and my goals in raising him. Reading a book where a character has a different lifestyle provides a TON of fodder for educating a child and raising him. Now obviously, I’m not going to give Nate The Lord of the Flies the day that he turns five and we’re not going to read The Handmaid’s Tale when he’s 10.  They’re way beyond him at that age, but a good parent knows when their kid is ready for that material. And I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t let him read it when he’s ready and discuss with him.  Isn’t that what good parents do? I don’ need the friggin’ school or town council to ban books from the library in order to figure that stuff out. Seriously. Stay out of my house – I can raise my own kids thanks very much. (I guess there is a reason that I live in the “Live Free or Die” State huh?).

Anyways, the ladies at Five Minutes for Books had a couple of questions that I wanted to try to answer:

So, tell me — what do you avoid reading and why? Is there any area in which you intentionally try to stretch your borders? What about for your children?

I tend to avoid reading romance novels and war novels and anything that is just graphic sex scene after graphic sex scene. I can handle a couple of sex scenes and violence when it serves to forward the story line. I stretch my borders with books that deal with gender and race relations – The Handmaid’s Tale, The Color Purple and To Kill A Mockingbird for example are books that have meant a lot to me that I wouldn’t have necessarily read. Nate hasn’t started reading yet, so it’s hard to answer the next part.

Anyways, that’s my last post for the night. Pretty intense, but hopefully gives you food for thought. I’d love to hear your impressions about this post, self censorship, the whole nine yards.

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One thought on “Censorship, books and Banned Book Week

  1. Pingback: Impromptu Banned Books Week Carnival « Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub

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