This week is Banned Books Week. Several Literary and Library organizations are highlighting books that have been challenged or banned from public or school libraries. I looked at some of the banned book lists earlier and they read like the who is who of my most beloved books. To kill a mockingbird is on there and Harry Potter; Brave New World and Lord of the Rings;The Catcher in the Rye, The Kite Runner and Hunger Games. Authors that have been banned go from Sendak over Capote to Hemingway. From Rowling over Morrison to Myracle. Even Captain Underpants is on it.
Reasons given are usually any opinion regarding politics or religion at all, anything that has to do with sex or sex education, and inappropriate language. In short all those issues that people have to deal with in real life.
What I am wondering about is what the people who want to ban those books are so afraid of. Are they really protecting their children from evil influences when they try to get rid of books that talk about sexuality, oppression and violence? Or are they much rather protecting themselves from having to deal with children that have gained knowledge and understanding and are therefore harder to control?
Fact of the matter is, that things will not go away just because you don’t like them. Kids will find ways to learn about topics that really interest them. Only if you take away the option for them to learn in the safe environment of their home, you are making it more difficult for them to gain knowledge in an appropriate manner.
I rather take books as stepping stones for important discussions. If I, for example, find a book that glorifies an abusive and controlling relationship and diminishes the female character to a dimwitted klutz, I do not ban the the book. I leave my kids with the choice to read it and then talk about the views expressed in it later. (Just as an aside, the aforementioned book was on the banned list as well.)
Kids are bombarded with so much contradicting information and imagery these days. Having books that are helping them make sense of their situation, showing them alternatives and foster critical thinking can really make a difference in their emotional well-being. Don’t take away these resources. Also most of those books on the lists are damn good books.