Sunday, September 28, 2008

Banned Books Week: September 29 - October 6

This week, all readers need to observe Banned Books Week and share their opinions with non-readers. If you think it isn't important, take a look at the list of the Top 100 Banned Books in this decade. Fahrenheit 451... Brave New World... The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn... Harry Potter... To Kill a Mockingbird-- these books are just the tip of the iceberg.

Where they burn books, they will ultimately also burn people. (Heinrich Heine)

I cannot imagine living in a world where I'm told what I can and cannot read. I can imagine that many people who believe banning books is a Good Thing believe they are protecting their children. The truth is, they're doing the exact opposite. A child has to know what's out in the world in order to be protected. That doesn't mean you should pack up your kids in the SUV and drive to the closest street corner where they're selling drugs or where prostitutes are earning a precarious living. It also doesn't mean you teach them about terrorism by sending them off to Al Quaida Day Camp. Your child needs to know what's out there, and the safest way to impart that knowledge is through the pages of books. Want them to stay away from drugs? Let them read Go Ask Alice (#17 on the list). Guiding your child through trips to the library is an excellent form of protecting them in the months and years to come.

Of course, if you don't read, you're going to have a problem. Could be you're one of the folks trying to ban books. How do you know a book should be banned if you've never read it? Do the best thing you can do--for yourself and for a child--crack open a book and read it together. You'll find that they're not objects of fear. Books are really objects of knowledge, of power, and of fun.

If you're a person who reads but believes a child is too young to read about "that stuff", run that belief past a nine-year-old girl who's given birth, or a little boy in grade school who's been offered drugs. I'm going to share a very personal example with you. Puberty hit me hard, and I began to suffer from standing-at-the-edge-of-the-abyss depression. Thoughts of suicide were normal for me. Yet here I am, 53 years old, and with those thoughts far behind me. Did I go see a shrink? Couldn't afford one. Did I get put on some mood-altering meds? Nope. Still to expensive, and besides...I was convinced that I was weird and I was too ashamed to tell anyone of my problems. (I was so good at hiding my feelings that even my mother didn't know.) What saved me? BOOKS! A mother who let me read! My mother was a librarian, and was a firm believer in "If she's old enough to ask, she's old enough to know". If she couldn't answer my questions, she found the answers in books, and it wasn't long before I turned to them as well. Books literally saved my life because I found out that I wasn't alone. That other people had gone--and were going--through the same things I was. If I hadn't read those books, I quite simply wouldn't be here today, wondering why on earth people want to ban the very things that can save lives.

I sound a bit rabid on the subject, don't I? I am. And I'm not the only person with strong feelings about banning books. If you want to read more opinions, here's another reader's viewpoint.


  1. Thank you, Cathy, for taking the time to make a difference. I'm a librarian, and I've dealt with censorship issues, including the ones when a group of parents just passed around the censorship requests, and never read the book.

    But, with your personal story, you made the case in a much stronger way than I ever could.

    Thank you. Banned Books Week is also Celebration of the Freedom to Read Week.

  2. To paraphrase a quote from one of my favorite films: "fREADom!"

  3. Cathy,

    Just wanted to let you know I included a link to your blog in my posting this morning for Banned Books Week. Thank you again.

  4. Specifics always prove the point better than generalities. Thanks for sharing your experience, Cathy, especially because it supports what I've always believed: Children are the best judges of their reading material.

  5. I love what you've said here and completely agree that it is important for children to be allowed to read whatever strikes their fancy and for parents to be available to them to talk about anything they have questions about or are disturbed by. This is how we learn about the world. It also makes me crazy when people suggest banning books they've never read--this happened when I was in high school and a parent wanted Romeo & Juliet (of all things) taken off the reading list b/c R & J have premarital sex. When it was pointed out that they are, in fact, married when they have sex, the person admitted that he had never read it. Ignorance is really an amazing thing.


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!