Heads up everyone! Today begins National Banned Books Week, a week set aside each year to celebrate the freedom to read freely. Hmmm…the freedom to read freely. What does that mean? Doesn’t the First Amendment give us that right?
Each year in the United States, scores of books are “challenged” by schools and libraries nationwide. The reasons are too vast to list them all, but it frequently comes down to one person in a community who feels that the content of a book is inappropriate reading material for the masses. He takes his concerns to the school, or library, or wherever the book is placed, and asks that it be removed.
What? This is 2015! Surely that doesn’t happen today!
It not only does happen, it happens frequently. Two such cases happened right here in the town I reside; and both within the last few years.
The first is a case of a children’s picture book entitled And Tango Makes Three. What in the world could be wrong with a picture book, you wonder? Well, in this particular case, Tango is a young penguin adopted by two male penguins. Together the three make a family. Interestingly, it’s based upon a true story. That’s right — a true story! And yet some people find it objectionable because they see the retelling as a story embracing homosexuality. Yeah – because animals have hidden agendas and do that all the time! You can read one explanation of this book’s banning by visiting this link from the New York Public Library.
Another example right here in my town occurred this very week last year when an accelerated/honors English class for tenth grade students was studying The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich. A parent challenged the book, saying it included sexual content inappropriate for her tenth grade student. Though given the opportunity for her child to read an alternate assignment, the parent still challenged the book for all. You can read about this story from the Rochester Post Bulletin.
Thankfully, in both cases, the challenges were unsuccessful and the books remain on the shelves of Rochester Public Schools.
Book banning is nothing short of censorship for all and, as you can tell, I’m vehemently outspoken on the topic. I am a firm believer that it violates our rights as both readers AND as parents.
Wait! As parents?
Yes, as parents. As a parent, it is my right to decide what is and is not appropriate reading material for my children. Let me say that again:
It is my right to decide what is and is not appropriate reading material for my children.
Under no circumstances would I ever think to tell another person’s child what he MUST read and, by the same token, no one else has the right to restrict my children’s reading. Nobody. That decision belongs exclusively to my husband and me.
I’m not saying that every book is appropriate for every child. As a parent, YOU have the right to dictate for YOUR child what he/she reads. You and I will not always agree, and that’s the beauty of parenting — we don’t have to agree and that doesn’t make either of us more right than the other. But if the books aren’t available for our children to view, then how are we to make a decision about whether it’s appropriate?
For myself, I can’t imagine a scenario where I would ever tell my children they couldn’t read a book. ANY book. I might try to redirect them. I might certainly try to make it difficult for them to get their hands on it (as I did when my then-15 year old wanted to read 50 Shades of Grey!). But I can’t imagine ever telling my children, “No – you can’t read that book.” But that’s the way I parent, and there is nothing wrong with YOU deciding the book is “off limits” for your children. Just don’t think that it’s okay for either of us to make a decision for the masses.
This week, I intend to dedicate the week to Banned Books. I’ll pick some of my favorites and explore the reasons they’ve been challenged, and I’d like to hear from you! How do YOU feel about banned books? Do YOU have any favorite books from days gone by that have been banned or challenged? If you don’t know, you should Google it and I think you might be surprised.
Until tomorrow, friends — let’s take these next few days to celebrate reading without restriction!
For now, check this YouTube video of And Tango Makes Three