It’s Banned Books Week, in which we celebrate our freedoms though choosing to read WHATEVER THE HECK WE WANT, THANK YOU. I’ve been so inspired, reading blogs like the one Saundra Mitchell posted on Mundie Moms, which shows how reading powerful books transformed one desperate girl’s life. Support for banned books is often placed in the context of how they can transform at-risk kids, and that is, indeed, the mightiest reason TO NEVER BAN BOOKS. EVER.
My own experience with banned books has been much quieter, far more subtle. My childhood was near-idyllic: two married parents, two siblings, a dog. I attended the same elementary school, middle school and high school my entire scholarly years, as did most of my friends. I was (and still am) very blessed.
Thankfully, my teacher-Mom allowed me to read WHATEVER THE HECK I WANTED, THANK YOU. I soaked in everything from Peanuts cartoon books to Flowers in the Attic. Never once did she say, “That’s not right for you.” In fact, she never even said, “Not yet.” She let me read and read and read. *
And all that reading? It allowed me to understand things I never experienced. I sat in church every Sunday, but it wasn’t until I read Little House in the Big Woods that I realized how I was blessed to have food on the table every night. I had friends, but it wasn’t until I read Bridge to Terabithia that I realized how much I treasured them. I had two married parents, but only through A Wrinkle in Time did I realize how much it would hurt to lose one of them. All of these books have come under fire by book banners at one time or another.** Had they not been a part of my childhood, I wouldn’t be the adult I am now.
I’m lucky. I didn’t live though much tragedy, but books helped me be more sympathetic, more caring. (This is not to say I’m the picture of gratitude and generosity– far from it. So very far…) Books like Speak and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian will do the same for kids like the one I was. These books not only have the power to heal broken readers, they have the power to open the eyes of readers who might otherwise tread the path with thick blinders.
If books are being challenged in your community, please Speak Loudly. You don’t have to love – or even like – the book being challenged. But someone out there might be moved by it. It might make that person just inches more empathetic. And wouldn’t that alone be worth it?
Books change lives, whether they make you slightly more aware than you were before, or whether they heal your deepest wounds. Taking that away is not only ignorant, it’s cruel.
The entry below contains a list of the Top Banned Books of 2009. Read one and see if you aren’t a different person. And please, leave a comment and share how a banned book changed YOUR life!
*This is not how every family operates, and I respect that. If you choose to approve what your child reads, I think that involvement is wonderful.
**Okay, technically, I think Little House on the Prairie came under target, not Little House in the Big Woods.