Every other year since I started this blog, I’ve managed to write about Banned Books Week, climbing on a bit of a high horse to say it’s futile and wrong to try to protect kids from subjects we don’t want to discuss with them by challenging books in their libraries. See, the American Library Association (ALA) reports that “sex, profanity, and racism remain the primary categories of objections, and most occur in schools and school libraries.” And these challenges are motivated by the desire to protect children.
My own desire to protect my daughter led me to ban her from reading, or seeing the movie, The Hunger Games this year. I’m not the only one who had hesitations about its violence, as it was the 3rd most-challenged book of 2011.
But, let me back up to give a little context. You see, my daughter who just turned 10 years old has been having a difficult time sleeping in her own bed at night for a while now. Which means, I’ve had a difficult time sleeping, too, because you know where kids head when they’re scared at night. And while I myself had many fears of monsters, ghosts and vampires that led me to sleep with a wooden cross on my own nightstand as a child, my daughter’s fears have always been much more of the 10 o’clock news variety – robbers, murderers, natural disasters.
With that in mind, I didn’t think The Hunger Games would be any help to me in my quest to get her to sleep by herself. So, I read it first to make a balanced decision, and then told her I thought she needed to be a bit older. Thus, turning myself into the hypocrite of this post’s title, I thought.
True to what I knew all along, though, parents really can’t prevent their children from reading or seeing things they don’t want them to be exposed to short of keeping them locked down on house arrest. At a friend’s house where “everyone else wanted to watch it,” she recently saw the movie. Her conscience got the best of her and she fessed up, or I’d never even have known.
So, as I thought about all this leading into Banned Books Week, I decided I should lift my ban and open it up for her to read the trilogy that she now has access to on her birthday present – a new Kindle Fire. Since it’s connected to my account and I’d previously downloaded them, she can easily enough call them up.
But, guess what? She said she doesn’t want to read them yet! After having seen the movie, she agrees that she wants to wait a while to read the books. Instead, she’s opted to read another one I’d downloaded a while back – The Help.
I went searching to see if it had been challenged, as well, since it is rather similar in theme to some other great books that people have tried to ban like The Secret Life of Bees, The Color Purple and To Kill a Mockingbird (which in 2011, still made the The Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books list). But, no, it does not appear to have received the same attention.
So I haven’t been able to redeem myself from banning a book by getting her to read a challenged or banned book. Although ALA says research suggests that for each challenge reported there are as many as four or five that go unreported.
But… I am feeling at least a little redeemed after reading this in ALA’s listing of books challenged or banned in 2010-2011 (PDF)
“The rights and protections of the First Amendment extend to children and teens as well as adults. While parents have the right — and the responsibility — to guide their own children’s reading, that right does not extend to other people’s children. Similarly, each adult has the right to choose their own reading materials, along with the responsibility to acknowledge and respect the right of others to do the same.”
At least I wasn’t trying to keep anyone else’s kids from reading something, and I do respect the right of others to make choices for themselves and their families – just don’t try to force them on me or mine.
Banned Books Week marks its 30th anniversary this year. There’s a cool online timeline to mark the occasion that you should check out. I’d also suggest you take the time to read a challenged or banned book this week. It’s a good excuse to read a classic you might have missed like The Great Gatsby, or a children’s book that came out after your own childhood, or a young adult novel that explores tricky topics you need to be prepared to discuss with your own kids.
That’s why I should probably be reading ttyl this year, but instead I think I’ll pick something will less teen-girl drama – I’ll have enough of that in real life soon enough…