As you may already know, September 21st-27th is Banned Books Week. This week, the American Library Association (ALA) along with educational institutions across the U.S. work to ensure all people have the freedom to read what they choose. Over the years, there are a wide variety of reasons why books have been banned (including citations of issues relating to sex, racism, political issues and violence). While I can comprehend the idea of people being uncomfortable with the ideas set forth in a book that deals with any of the above issues, what amazes me is that there are people who believe that simply eradicating such topics or questions will be of service to their children or their communities on the whole.
Where can we have a safer forum to discuss such delicate issues as race, sexuality, politics and violence than in books? Through books we are able to travel to new worlds and experience places and people we may otherwise never encounter. This gives us a unique vantage point from which we can learn about the world and see things through someone else’s eyes.
A recent study even found that reading literary fiction improves empathy in readers.
If we simply shut out the things we do not like, how are we to learn about one another? How can we resolve our problems if we simply ignore the issues that cause them? How secure are we in our beliefs if we cannot stand to have those challenged?
These issues are especially important when it comes to our kids and how they think about the world around them. If my child wants to read something that has content that makes me uncomfortable but is age appropriate (and even that can be debated to a point), I would rather use that work as a springboard to have a conversation with my child about why it makes me uncomfortable or why something in it is questionable. I want my children (and yours) to think for themselves.
What banned books have made an impact on your life? Do you think it’s appropriate for schools or parents to censor what children are allowed to read?