In honor of Banned Book Week I thought I’d share an interesting story about an incident of actual, real-life book banning. Maybe it’s because I’ve got slime for brains, but I’d really like to know what some parents are thinking.
I was at the mall the other day, buying winter clothes for the little shamblers. They don’t really feel the cold, but one gets tired of gluing frozen fingers and ears back on, so they’re wearing hats and gloves this year whether or not they think they need them.
I shambled through the bookstore after lunch (I don’t usually eat fast food but the speed-walker club was right there and I was hungry) and in the children’s section I overhead a breather parent lecturing her child on what sort of book he was allowed to pick out. Apparently the boy was not allowed to read comics or anything not considered “quality reading.” She was making him put back a Calvin and Hobbes treasury.
My jaw dropped – then it rolled under a table – so I had to go after it and missed the rest of the conversation. When I came out from under the table, the mother was leading her red-faced child out of the book store with a stony expression. Neither was carrying any books.
Normally I’m not one to judge the parenting decisions of another, but that woman was lucky I’d just eaten. Who actively discourages their child from reading anything? Let’s take a moment to look at the books that have been banned and censored over the years, books of genuine literary quality that nevertheless some people thought would rot their children’s brains:
The Diary of Anne Frank. The Great Gatsby. Flowers for Algernon. Slaughterhouse-Five. City of the Dead.
Okay, I threw that last one in out of wishful thinking. Someday the book club will see things my way.
And yes, I’ve put my money where my mouth is. I let my daughter read Twilight, and I’m pleased to report that her reaction was, “I don’t get the big deal. Do we have any more Brian Keene in the house?”
I understand limiting access to material that would disturb younger readers. I don’t let my boys watch zombie movies yet, for example. My youngest is especially sensitive; he tends to think that every zombie that gets blown away is his great-uncle Arthur. But censorship based purely on one’s own interpretation of literary quality is a guarantee that your child will never appreciate the sheer fun of reading.
So come on, parents. Lighten up. Let your kid read Goosebumps and Junie B. Jones once in a while. I promise it won’t rot his brain. And anyway, it’s not like a little brain rot ever hurt a kid. Trust me on this.