Are there books you would keep out of your home library, and try to keep away from your kids? I admit that, for me, there are books that I would prefer my son didn't read (books with excess commercialism, violence, inappropriate solutions to problems, fighting, poorly contrived rhymes, Elmo . . . ). Ok, the Elmo was a joke. Sort of. But really, some books do give me pause, and I can see why parents who view school as an extension of their home might become concerned when school libraries add books to their shelves that contain messages that disagree starkly with the lessons they teach their children at home. How would I feel if a publisher dared to release a children's book that promoted the superiority of one race over another and if that book lined the walls of my child's school library? Or, unlike books like And Tango Makes Three, which I reviewed here) and which has topped objection lists for years running, what if a school purchased books saying that homosexuality is wrong and that homosexual men and women will go to hell? It is easy to oppose book banning when the books that are being banned are ones with which I have no objection. In a sense, I am relying on publishers and school librarians to do some self-censoring/banning of their own. But there is a lot of grey in the world.
While pregnant, I reread Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. While I enjoyed most of it very much, I also wondered when an appropriate age might be for a child to be exposed to the racial slurs and generally awful treatment inflicted on former slave Jim, not to mention the references to hangings. Would I want my son to read this? Should I shield him from the hateful language? Logic won out, and Huckleberry Finn earned a spot on our bookshelf. It captures a moment in our country's history that children will need to learn about, and when the time is right, Mark Twain will help us.
For the most part, I'm a firm believer that books bring knowledge, and that knowledge is power. Like we handle everything that life throws at our children, we need to handle books wisely -- to read to our children when they are young, explain stories in age-appropriate language that they can understand, to read alongside them when they're older, to discuss what they read, quiz them, challenge them, teach them. That is the beauty of books. I'm less frightened by what my son might learn from a book than by the prospect of a world that decides for him what knowledge he is allowed to access.
And that is why I support Banned Books Week.
Please share your thoughts. Have you posted about Banned Books Week? Are there books you would prefer that your children never read? Have you ever questioned the appropriateness of a book that your child has read in school or found at the library?