Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB that asks you to muse about one of several “bookish” questions… or, you can just ramble on about anything you like that pertains to books! You can join in by clicking the graphic above. Go ahead–it’s fun!
Here’s my musing for this week–
Banned Books Week is Sept. 21-27 this year, and banning/challenging books is a hot-button issue for many people. Here’s a brief description of the purpose of Banned Books Week from the ALA website:
“Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, these books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.”
So that’s the background. You can find lists of frequently challenged books here–as well as the reasons for the challenges.
Here’s my take:
I believe that parents ABSOLUTELY have the right–and the responsibility–to monitor and guide their children’s reading. This means different things to different people.
Some parents raise their kids to be “free range readers”—kids who are encouraged to read anything and everything they can get their hands on. Other parents set limits on the materials and subject matter that their kids are allowed to read—because of their child’s age/maturity, for philosophical, educational, religious, or moral reasons, or other factors. And lots and lots of parents fall somewhere in between.
Part of parenting is knowing what your kids are doing–and to me, that includes being aware of the books they’re reading and putting limits and consequences in place that make sense for your family. And along with that, in my opinion, is helping your kids become responsible citizens by helping them learn to make smart reading choices. That’s about teaching kids to acknowledge new ideas that they encounter in books. It’s about helping kids evaluate what they read and understand that they may not always agree with it or believe that it’s true. And it’s about helping children learn to accept the existence of differing opinions and choices they read about without necessarily taking them on as their own.
Easy? Not by a long shot. But part of the responsibility of every parent is taking charge of raising their children in the manner that they see fit–whether or not they agree with or incorporate ideas such as the ones I’ve listed above.
The key words here are THEIR CHILDREN.
When parents try to control the books that can–and can’t–be found in public community libraries, public school libraries, and in public book stores, they’re trying to control the reading behaviors of ALL CHILDREN. By removing a book from public bookshelves, they’re taking away choices for all. They are essentially trying to parent other parents’ children. And that, to me, is not OK.
To parents who have different ideas than my own about what THEIR KIDS can and can’t read, I say more power to you. Your house, your children—your rules. I may not agree with you, but I will tirelessly defend your right to parent your kids in the way that’s right for you and your family. However–we should all expect that same respect in return. To the parents who want to enforce their own limits on the reading habits of children who are not members of their own family, I say hands off. End of story.
How about you? What are your thoughts? I’m interested in your feelings about this issue. Have you or your kids had any experiences with banned or challenged books? Please share!