Celebrate Banned Books!


I couldn’t let this week pass without saying a little something about the banning of books. It’s something that I’m very passionate about. Not the banning, but the freedom to read what we choose to read. When society chooses to put restrictions on a book for it’s content, we lose our freedom of speech. That author has lost his or her freedom of speech. We have lost the right to make our own decisions. As Nymeth mentioned in her wonderful post, I certainly think that parents have the right to filter their children’s reading to an extent, until a certain age. There are certain things that I don’t think a 7-12 year old needs to read. But the truth of the matter is, each child is different.

I can’t stand the recent idea that has risen of putting age suggestions on books. As I commented on Nymeth’s blog, I first read Stephen King’s Misery in 5th grade. I was 11 years old. And I don’t think it had any lasting negative effect on me. In fact, had it not been for that book, I don’t know if I would’ve become so excited about reading novels at such a young age. Proof that each INDIVIDUAL is different. It is WRONG for one person or one group to ban a certain book for everyone in a certain area because they have a problem with it. The great thing about our country is that we also have the freedom of choice. That also means that you have the CHOICE not to read that book if you don’t agree with it’s topics. I think that many of us won’t read certain books that don’t have any appeal to us. It doesn’t mean though that we will fight to have that book banned so that no one can read it. I’m sorry, but to me, that spells ignorance.

Another book that I read in the 5th grade was Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. To think that I might have never read that book because someone else thought it was satanic is truly sad to me. That book changed my life. I know that it made me the reader that I am today and it was the first fantasy novel that I fell in love with. How anyone could read something that needed to be banned from that book is beyond me. To think that there are children who have actually been affected by bannings like this is sorrowful. That there are thousands of reading experiences that have been stolen from children because of the fears and insecurities of those surrounding them is terrifying to me. Does fear, ignorance, and unacceptance have that much power today?

The answer is no. We as readers can continue to fight this and we will. And we’ll fight it by continuing to READ BANNED BOOKS! We can read them and recommend them to those that we know will love them and cherish them and recommend them to others. We can share them with those to whom they will make a difference. To those that may have a spark lit inside of them that grows into a love of literature in all of it’s colors, shapes, genders, races, religions, ethnicities, and views. Because we celebrate books as they are…as the author’s meant them to be. Not the censored versions that a handful of naysayers would like to see.


14 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing Chris. I, too, think that it’s not about what we read that most influences our actions (even as children) but what values our family has taught us. In fact, reading about “negative” things open our eyes and teach us to discern right from wrong.

    When I was 10 and I’d finished all the Nancy Drew I could get my hands on, I wanted to read from my older sister’s collection of Sweet Dreams (teen romances much like Sweet Valley). She didn’t let me as it had a small print: “For ages 11 and up” and I wasn’t 11 yet. I told my Dad and what he did changed my reading life forever. He drove me to the bookstore and picked up a couple of Sidney Sheldons (grown up books!) for me. At 10 years old I was reading Master of the Game and If Tomorrow Comes, which had, in the first few pages, a rape scene/scenes in a women’s prison. I can’t say it did much for me except creep me out, but it certainly made me aware I didn’t want to be a criminal as I didn’t want to land myself in jail ever! While I don’t read Sidney Sheldon anymore, it certainly paved my way to exploring more grownup books much earlier than my peers. Lol.

  2. Age branding for books=ugh. And the point that many seem to miss when considering that possibility is that it is, in fact, a form of “gently” discouraging daring writing. And if that’s not censorship, what is? It works that way for movies and videogames already. Say you’re a struggling writing. You’re writing a middle grade book, and you know that dealing with a certain topic will land you a 13+ rating. Which in its turn will probably result in fewer sales, fewer libraries purchasing your book, fewer parents letting their kids near it. So you hesitate. You think twice. You considering not taking your story there at all, and maybe you decide not to. And THAT’S a big problem.

  3. Not only do these books spark a love of literature, but they also teach kids to think for themselves. I think that’s really what’s great about books. Your parents can teach you whatever they like, really, good or bad. But books bring us outside of our own lives and give us a valuable new perspective on life. Often the banned books are the most thought-provoking and that’s why parents think they’re threatening. Makes them all the more worth reading. =)

  4. *struggling WRITER ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

  5. I was really into Stephen King in 7th and 8th grade (when I was 12 & 13, since I was a year behind)! ๐Ÿ™‚ I wonder what parents do if they’re not big readers, but their children are. How would they even be able to know what different authors are like? I think that’s where age-branding stems from, and I see both the negatives and the positives. The negatives you’ve already outlined. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But on the other hand, if the age-branding makes parents more willing to let their children read books by unknown authors, that could be a good thing, right?

    (I’m mainly just playing Devil’s advocate here. But I think it’s interesting to think about the other side…whereas flat out banning books I can’t see another side to.)

  6. Wonderful post, Chris!

    I’d like to respond to something Meghan said though. “Often the banned books are the most thought-provoking and thatโ€™s why parents think theyโ€™re threatening.” People don’t have children and automatically become narrow-minded. I love to have my children read thought-provoking books…they lead to some INCREDIBLE DISCUSSIONS between us that might otherwise never happen. In fact, I tend to pick the books we read for school for those reasons much more than “literary” ones. I was just trying to think about the books we’ve read for literature since Annie started homeschooling in fourth grade–the majority of them have been banned/challenged books. I agree that many people that want to ban books don’t want children, or people in general for that matter, to be allowed to think for themselves…but I don’t think the pro-banners group includes all parents, or even a significant minority of them. Anyway, I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. ๐Ÿ˜€

  7. sometimes i think banning a book is a strategic maneuver to making a book sell even more!

    Actually books should not be “banned” they could express an opinion on the inside cover like: not recommended for children under age…
    and let the adult make up their own minds..duh

  8. Awesome thoughtful post, Chris. ๐Ÿ™‚

    As far as age recs, it’s not really that new a thing. It may be becoming more popular now, but my first copy of Anne of Green Gables totally had an age recommendation in it, and that was back when I was in elementary school. Though that was more reading level than book content, so it probably doesn’t REALLY count. ๐Ÿ˜‰ How do you think putting an age rating for books compares with age ratings for movies?

  9. As a parent, I’d have to disagree that parents should at one point stop monitoring what their kids read. Obviously, as they get older, they should have more freedom, but there are certain lines I’d rather not be crossed in my house. And, as you say, every individual is different, and if a parent is doing his/her job well enough, he/she should know what the child’s tolerance level is. Learning about books and coming to understand about books should be a vocal process, a sharing between two people. I would never blanket-ban something, but there are some things that if my (older) kids are reading, I’d like to discuss why beforehand.

    I’m not advocating banning books at all, I just think the idea of saying, “you’re 14 now, have at whatever you want” is a very irresponsible attitude for a parent to take. Does that make sense?

  10. Well said, Chris. I know when I was ten or so, it was exciting to read books above my age group. Half the time the content and vocabulary was over my head, but I loved reading books that challenged my small view of the world. Sometimes I came across books (and I still do occasionally) that made me uncomfortable but I just put them aside. It’s just not a book for me- but everyone has to make that choice for themself. Not for others.

  11. I’ve read A Wrinkle in Time several times and I can’t imagine why anyone would consider it Satanic. If anything, I always thought there was an undercurrent of either Christianity or just general spirituality in L’Engle’s books.

    Thanks for writing about this topic! We’re 100% in agreement. I do think parents need to make their own decisions about what to let their kids read when they’re younger, but I also believe it’s even better to simply read along with your kids and talk about anything that doesn’t, say, fit your moral code. I’ve done that with mine and besides giving me a chance as a parent to share what my husband and I consider our personal beliefs, it’s an excellent excuse to talk to the kiddos and share your love of books. Both of my boys get excited at the chance to chatter with me about books.

  12. Applause!! I read whatever I liked from the point when I could choose what to read, and I think it’s made me a better person. I devoured those icky Flowers In The Attic books from around age 11 or 12 and frankly I think it led me to loving Gothic tales. So it’s all good.

  13. Extremely well said Chris.

  14. APPLAUSE! and thanks for the reminder to find A Wrinkle in Time…

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