My Thoughts on Banned Books
There’s not a whole lot I can write about banned books that hasn’t already been written this week.…
This chart made me angry.
A lot has been said on the web about Banned Books Week. I have been very glad for our public celebration of reading and of freedom, and interested to hear about the books that some have tried to ban and the various reasons behind those actions. But I did not have much to add to the conversation myself.
Then I saw this chart. This chart made me angry.
Look at that line on the far left.
That tall, tall line indicating the most challenges to books from any single source. Who initiated the most challenges against books between 2000 and 2005?
Parents. And as a parent that disturbs me.
To any parent trying to control what other people’s children may read, I say: That is none of your damn business.
To any parent trying to get a government, or a school board, or a principal, or a teacher, or a librarian, or anyone else to control what your own child may read, I say: Stop trying to get someone else to do your job for you. Step up and be a parent.
One of the responsibilities of parenthood is to encourage your child to read. And absolutely, a part of that responsibility to guide your child to appropriate reading materials. But that is your responsibility as a parent to your children. It is not your responsibility to control what others may read. And it is not your right to get books banned so that you can relax in the delusion that someone else is protecting your kids from books that you don’t like.
If your child is interested in a book that you don’t think is appropriate, then talk to your child about it. Tell them why you don’t want them to read that book. Talk about when you think it might be appropriate for them, when they are older. Talk about why you care about what they read, about how good decisions about what to put in your mind are as important as good decisions about what to put in your body. Guide them toward other books that may deal with similar subjects at a level more appropriate to your child and his or her age. And talk to them about how, when they are grown, they will have the freedom and the responsibility to make reading decisions on their own.
And when you talk to your child about these things, don’t forget to listen as well.
In the close cases, offer to read the book with your child, and discuss with them the difficult or worrisome parts so you can put the book in the context of the moral and ethical framework which as a parent you should be helping them build.
This is hard work, but as a parent it is your job. Don’t try to get out of it by having some bureaucrat make the book disappear so you don’t have to deal with it.
And if you can’t talk to your child about something a serious as reading, or you are afraid that your child will go out and read a book even after you have told them not to, or you are worried that some other parent may make different decisions about their own child’s reading, or you think some books simply should not be allowed to exist, then you have much bigger problems that no book ban is going to solve.