Wednesday, August 20, 2008


The current discussion ensuing among the Carolina region of SCBWI is the issue of parenting vs. censorship. A parent, who is also a writer, was mortified at some books her child brought home from the school library (classified as narrative nonfiction for 4-8 grade, they are in an elementary library and discuss actual crimes that have happened and the CSI techniques used to solve them). Evidently the books are quite graphic, but the larger discussion has been over the issue of whether or not the books should be in the library at all. Does that amount to good parenting, or censorship?

When I was 12, there was a series out that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. A friend of mine had the entire set, and would loan them to me. After my Mom read one of the books, she told me she didn't approve, and why (the main characters, in HS, had no problem with gossip, lying, backstabbing, etc) and stated she really didn't want me reading such stuff. She didn't tell me I couldn't read them. And that was my loophole. I simply read them at school. But by book three after our discussion, the books didn't seems as great. I knew what the characters were going to do; I knew it wouldn't be kind or nice, and the plot seemed a little lame. By book four, the fun was gone. That was my last book in that series.

Now that I'm older, I understand the wisdom behind Mom's dislike. But I think I shocked her later by asking questions about one of her books. Having read most of ours, I simply moved up one shelf to her books. I was blessed to be surrounded by a lot of great books, but I wish I had been exposed to more classics and adventurous, fun books in Middle School.

And I guess that makes me question the assertions of some librarians that if you don't approve of a book you don't have to check it out. In theory, that is very true. But when you're dealing with a child, such as I was, then that child will find a way to check out a book they want. They may never take it home, but it will almost certainly be read. I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I do think that sometimes a little censorship doesn't hurt.


gypsy@Hebrews11:13 said...

I agree. I really struggle with this issue of how far censorship should go. You remember that there was a time when people were trying to get Huck Finn banned from libraries and there were even book burnings held because of of the "N" word. I would be proud to have my kids read this classic ONCE THEY UNDERSTAND that this is NOT a nice word. So where do we draw the line? Also, I have not allowed my girls to read the Junie B Jones series because this little girl is a BRAT and never pays the consequences. But other mothers I know LOVE these books because their daughters are finally interested in reading. Where do we draw the line as to what's appropriate for certain ages? I think we have to be the kind of parent that your mother is and read the books our children are reading and explain to them why these things aren't appropriate. If we try to get things banned from public libraries thenwe run the risk of living out what Ray Bradbury was trying to say in "Farenheit 451."

Carroll said...

Indeed. I think this goes for TV as well...