This post was inspired by two other blog posts–one from a few years back and one from just a few hours ago.
Yesterday, I registered for PaLA’s annual conference, this year to be held in State College. When I was selecting the sessions I wanted to attend, I recognized the name James LaRue (a speaker for a double session), but I didn’t know from where, exactly. As I thought about it, I remembered a letter that I had read a few years back from a public librarian in response to a book challenge by a patron. As it turns out that letter was written by James LaRue. I have always remembered that letter because it was so thoughtful and so well written and epitomizes the very essence of why books should not be banned or censored despite legitimate concern on behalf of some. I welcome the opportunity to attend a conference session facilitated by someone who can write so eloquently about the reasons why “controversial” books exist in the first place. What’s controversial to some, is commonplace to others.
The second post was brought to my attention today on Facebook by a fellow Laura Bush Scholar. It’s a beautiful essay that illustrates the importance of uncensored access to books of all kinds to people of all ages, including children and young teens.
I guess my take-away from these two posts is reinforcement of what I’ve always believed: a book in and of itself is not bad or wrong or inappropriate or evil. A book is simply a collection of ideas. The ideas are open to interpretation. Exposure to new ideas is what growing is all about. There are most definitely some mature themes that may not be suitable for all ages; however, if a child is old enough and literate enough to read and understand the words on the page, then they are probably old enough and literate enough to understand that the words either align with the values they’ve been taught, teach them something new, or are alien to their sensibilities. By giving children the power to make this determination for themselves, we are giving them the power to discern in their own minds what makes sense to them and what doesn’t. It’s only natural that parents want to protect their children from uncomfortable subject matter. However, what better way to start a conversation than by discussing a book–something that is concrete, but not quite real. A book is ripe for debate without consequence. As a parent, if the actions, ideas, or thoughts of a book’s main characters or main themes do not align with the values you hope to instill in your child, then by all means use discussion of that book as an opportunity to point out how and why you disagree. Your child, however, may surprise you by pointing out a fallacy or two in your arguments. And if your child is excited about reading, period, well, that’s half the battle won.