Finally Following Up

I'm still not feeling 100%, but it might be another three weeks before that happens, so I want to get out the promised follow-up to my last Banned Books Week post. I went over how book banning works and why I disagree with it, and promised to discuss a couple counter-arguments.

Here they are.

  1. So what if a book is banned at one library? You can just borrow it from another library/buy a copy! This might be true if  you a) have access to another library or b) can afford to buy the book. Of course, there are many people who only have access to one library. Most people only use one public library system. Students often only use their school libraries, especially if they are depending on very busy parents for transport to a public library. And far too many people truly can't afford to buy books - they are more likely to give up reading one book than give up eating dinner. Potential readers' access, then, is severely limited by even one library banning a book. More importantly, however, is the principle of the thing - we have the right to information, to read what we want to read and reach our own conclusions, form our own beliefs. No one should be able to take that away from us, simply because they don't agree with the possible ramifications or didn't like the ideas presented.
  2. There are other stories to read - banning one book isn't going to make that big a difference! It might - it really might. If you ban all books presenting racism, for instance, you might not reach that one reader who needs to confront racist ideas in his own worldview. If you ban books on puberty and sexual education, kids will go through important times of their lives in possible shame and confusion, or at least uninformed and unprepared for the decisions they will have to make. And the silly series that you're afraid will teach your kid to disrespect authority might be the book that teaches her it's okay to be different at school, or gets him hooked on reading - a vital skill for later success. 
  3. I should be the one to decide what my child reads! Yes, you should, absolutely. That applies to every other parent, as well. They - not you - should decide what their child reads. You might decide that a book is too strong or frightening for your kid, and take it away. You might talk to their teacher about allowing a different book, instead, for homework assignments. That, though, is not the same thing as banning a book - you should allow other parents the right to decide what their children will read, and that means leaving the book on the shelf. Moreover, you should examine why you don't want your child reading that book. If you're afraid you'll mar their innocence, you might be better off reading it with them and discussing it - after all, there is a fine balance between protecting your child from harm and leaving them unprepared for the world outside. Reading about horrors such as rape or murder might be difficult, but it will be better in the long run to read and discuss them than to be unprepared when faced with them in real life. That is one of the great things about difficult literature - they give us the opportunity to face real problems in a safe setting! But you, as a parent, know best when your child is ready to face those problems. So, yes, by all means - monitor your child's reading; decide what your child reads, and when, and why; foster an environment where your child is encouraged and comfortable discussing what he's read. Please, though, remember to extend those same rights to other parents - no book banning allowed! 


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