September 25-October 2 is Banned Books Week, sponsored by the American Library Association. Banned Books Week (BBW) celebrates our freedom to read, even if we want to read unpopular or unorthodox viewpoints. Or, in many cases I’ve heard recently, books that other people do not feel are “good” for us. They make books sound like breakfast cereal, breaking them down into what is healthy and unhealthy, filling or not, something that can be denied to us by a paternal shake of the head. In fact, ALA records show parents are the top initiators of pulling a book from library shelves.
Why does this happen? I understand parents want to protect their children, but most of what I’ve heard recently are not attempts to protect toddlers or elementary school kids, they’re directed toward older teens. This boggles my mind. In all my years, I never remember my parents telling me no when I wanted to read a book. Once my mom mentioned that a series I thought was Nancy Drew-esque was really more teen romance and asked if that was something I wanted to read then or wait on. Mom was good to point out the subject matter, but it was more of a book recommendation than an authoritative NO. My parents let me read whatever I came to naturally. I read memoirs of Holocaust survivors meant for adults, and I was ten or eleven at the time. When my brother finished first grade he was reading books for a 10+ (or was it 12+?) reading level. My parents didn’t tell him that he couldn’t understand them; they talked with him. They answered his questions. He loved books. He’s 18 now and he’s not psychotic, which leads me to my next question.
What are we protecting them from? As adults, are we protecting the children or preventing them from asking questions we do not want to answer?
Please weigh in. I have a couple articles I want to share with you, but I want your thoughts first. Did your parents prevent you from reading certain books? Parents, I want to hear from you, too. What is your view of pulling books from library shelves? When does protective nature become paranoia?