If you didn’t know, this week is Banned Books Week.
Here’s the thing about banned books: It’s super easy to make fun of the book banners and call them closed-minded, or silly, or other not-so-nice names. But I don’t like name-calling, so that’s not what this post is about.
This post is about what my husband and I will do when our two daughters (and any additional children we may or may not have) (no, I am not pregnant, thanks for asking) start showing interest in books, movies, TV shows, magazines, etc. that deal with controversial issues.
To make it short and simple: we will not ban anything. Instead, we will we guide our children as they decide what to read and watch.
So what’s the difference?
I think a great example of the difference between banning and guiding can be found in those Harry Potter books on our living room bookcase. My oldest daughter will be three in December, and while I think she might enjoy some of the Harry Potter story, I also know she’s not ready for most of it.
Dobby? She would LOVE Dobby.
Voldemort and the Death Eaters? Not so much.
But once she gets a little older–I don’t know how much older, exactly, but I think my husband and I will know when the time is right–we’ll ask her if she wants to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. If she does, we’ll either allow her to read it on her own or we’ll read it out loud as a family, just depending on what seems best and what everyone prefers to do.
And then we’ll talk about it.
We’ll talk about what she loved. We’ll talk about what she didn’t love. We’ll talk about Harry and his home life before Hogwarts, Ron and his secondhand books, Hermione and her Muggle parents.
We’ll talk about each character’s strengths (like Harry’s courage, Ron’s loyalty, and Hermione’s persistence) and weaknesses (like Harry’s anger, Ron’s money-related shame, and Hermione’s pride).
We’ll talk about magic. We’ll imagine what things might be like if we could whip out a wand and make anything happen, anytime. What would we do first? What might the consequences be if we had that kind of power?
We’ll talk about bravery in the face of danger and how that relates to the world we live in.
We’ll talk about the importance of friends who remain loyal to each other, no matter what.
We’ll talk about the reality of evil and the need for people who will fight it.
But the bottom line is this: We will talk about it.
And the same goes for anything else our girls come across, whether it be a book that contains violence / sex / whatever, or some pop star acting a fool on stage, or a TV show where people do drugs.
Will we guide them and use our parental wisdom to determine when they’re ready for certain things? Absolutely. Please don’t hear me saying I’m going to make my kids watch Trainspotting when they’re six, because no.
But personally, I think it is a rather large mistake to forbid things simply because they aren’t “clean.” LIFE ISN’T CLEAN. It never has been and it never will be.
I’d rather walk with my kids through the muck of this world than pretend the muck doesn’t exist.
So having said that, I want to encourage you to seek out a banned book this week. Or any week, really. Pick one you’ve never read and start reading it. You can find the lists of banned and challenged books here.
And as you’re reading, consider how the book affects you. Have you learned something new? Is it making you think? Is it changing your perspective on anything?
You never know–a banned book just might change your life.