Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Stop It! Just Freaking Stop It!

It seems that too often these days I am reading stories of banned books. And frankly it gets my dander up. Okay, let's be honest, it pisses me off. There, I said it.

I'm taking a stand here. If you don't like it ... go suck an ostrich egg. It is my right to have an opinion and your right to differ with me. You are wrong, but I won't let that get in the way of our friendship or a good argument.

If you stopped by my house you would find a very ecclectic selection of books. You'll find books on gardening, hunting, engineering texts, grammar books, history galore, the bible, Wiccan books, Tarot books, Buddism, herbology, gemology, astrology, astronomy, physics, how to field strip a rifle, coloring books, children's books, junior books, teen books, romance, erotica, mysteries, dictionaries, encyclopedias (yes I still have them), classics, comics and instruction manuals. You name it, I have it ... in print and in ebook and in pdf format.

I was raised to read. My mother is an avid reader, and my father read a lot. Gifts were often books. I read everything I could get my hands on. Occassionally, Mom would pop her head into my room and tell me to shut out the light and go to sleep. Sometimes I listened, sometimes I lied and said, "As soon as I finish this chapter." She never hounded me, she never said "I told you so," when i was blurry eyed and sleepy after reading most of the night. She never told me what to read, and what not to read. There were books of all sorts around the house. Technical books, trashy romances (damn I loved those), kids books, encyclopedias, dirty magazines (ya, they intrigued me for a while), gardening books, the bible and newspapers.

I didn't encounter censorship until I heard about it in school. I was shocked when my friend told me her parent's would never let her read that. I questioned Mom about it and she told me she thought I was smart enough to choose my own reading material. But then, we were encouraged to investigate things and make our own decisions. I was never told not to read my older brother's skin magazines, Dad was anti-religion, but he never told me to put down the bible. He would ask me why I was reading that drivel, but he never told me not to read it. He let me choose. The only reading stipulation was that I had to do my chores before I read.

As for my own kids, I started reading to them when they were only a couple months old. I would hold up books so they could see and read the story, or make one up. As they got older, I encouraged them to ask questions, to take turns reading aloud, and to select what to read. I admit that when they were very young I did limit their options. I kept adult material (porn) out of their hands, but encouraged them to read as much as they wanted and what ever they wanted. But my husband and I guided their reading, not the school, not society, and certain not some stranger on the street.

I once got into a shouting match with a teacher about my children's reading choices. Okay, I nearly punched her in the face. She had banned Goosebumps books from her classroom because they were poor quality books and when my daughter took an junior version of Edgar Allan Poe to school she was told she couldn't read it because it was horror like "those Goosebump books."


The teacher's claim was that kid's wouldn't understand the difference. Grade four? Really? Kids that age are pretty damned savvy. Suffice it to say that we had a rather heated discussion about it, (I may have raised my voice), and in the end, my daughter read Poe in school.

Nobody has the right to tell my children what to read, or what not to read, except me. My children are older now, and I will listen to their dictates on what my grandchildren are permitted to read because it isn't my place to raise their children. That isn't to say that I won't tell my children they are wrong and try to convince them to come around to my way of thinking. 

My opinion of reading was and is, I don't care what you read, high quality, low quality, classics or total crap. If you read something crappy and enjoy it, you might pick up something similar that is better. A child reading Goosebumps (not picking on them, just using them as an example) can be steered to something better with the simple words, "This is like Goosebumps, maybe you could try this."

Once you develop the taste for reading and the wonderful worlds it can open up for you, you can fly. So read anything, read the cereal box, maybe when you get bored of that you'll pick up the comminity paper beside it, or your sister's novel. Why stifle curiosity by limiting his reading options? If he only ever reads comics, so what? To my mind, that is better than not reading at all.

As for censorship, let the parent's decide what their children can read. I will admit that children are best served to keep books with topics they may not understand out of their hands, but it is a parental, not societal choice. If the school library serves a wide range of ages, all the librarian has to do is suggest that Sally select something different and talk to Sally's parents about what they consider acceptable for her. Simple. Easy. No problems. If Bobby's parents don't want him reading a particular genre, then it is their repsonsibility to let the library know and to follow up on it. The library doesn't need to ban books and other parents have no right to dictate your child's reading materials.

Children need to be encouraged to read, and to be guided to age appropriate books. If that fails, let them have after the difficult or inappropriate books. Chances are they'll come around to your way of thinking and if not, the world needs more independent thinkers.

But banning books .... that is never an option. Ever.

And don't get me started on book burning, because I will slap you, or worse.

Rant finished.


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