It’s Banned Books Week! Every year, libraries across America, particularly in schools, come under fire for shelving certain books that are deemed unacceptable for one reason or another. Sexual content, profanity, witchcraft, promoting “alternative” families – you name it, it’s been used as a reason to ban a book.
The librarian profession is one that finds the very concept of censorship in any form anathema – after all, if your stated goal is to disseminate information and make it accessible to everyone, how can you support censorship? Obviously, there are grey areas, but to my mind, there is never a good reason to ban a book, particularly not in the name of “protecting the children.” For starters, if kids want to read something, they’ll find a way, trust me. Illicit copies handed around a group of friends, the magic of the internet, the public library – if they want to find it, they’ll find it.
Secondly, I think we often underestimate just what kids can and cannot handle. When I go back and re-read beloved books, I’m struck by themes of darkness that I never picked up on as a child. The best works of children’s literature are those that incorporate more “grown-up” elements, that don’t condescend to believe that children should be shielded from slightly unpleasant things in life. I think we do kids a disservice by screening them from things that we feel will be too upsetting – the best way to find out is to expose them to as much as possible and take it from there. I’m not advocating mindlessly terrorizing your kids, and there’s definitely content out there that’s not age appropriate, but I also don’t see the harm in exposing kids to things that might be a little advanced thematically for them.
To celebrate banned books week, go read a banned book, and do it proudly. Flaunt your reading of an illicit work of fiction. For my part, I will do my level best to profile one book a day off the list of the most frequently banned books that I have loved in my time, since class does not leave much time for pleasure reading.
To banned books! Long may they flourish in our lives.