Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Library memories, childhood books, and parental censorship

My parents did a lot of things right when it came to raising me and my brother.  I certainly didn't think this when I was a child, a teen or in my twenties, but LAWD I think so now that I am bringing up my own children.

One of the things my parents did, specifically my mother, was take us to the library.  I distinctly remember selecting books at our local branch, which was also the library at the nearest public high school.

I had a habit as a kid of reading the same books over and over again at the kitchen table when I was eating.  I guess I couldn't handle eating and reading something new that required my undivided attention, so when I wanted to snack I would pick a book I knew backwards and forwards.  (I'm STILL not terribly good at this as an adult).

One book I read repeatedly was Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade.

I had to do an online hunt for this book this morning because I could remember the premise and the cover but not the title or author.

There were 3 other books that I read constantly:

Then Again, Maybe I Won't (middle school)

Jimmy Reardon (high school)

California Dreamin' (college and older)

I suppose thinking about my own childhood reading makes me think about what I "allow" my own kids to read.  N is reading the Harry Potter series now; she is on Book 3.  She started the Divergent series, but took a break to focus on Hogwarts.  I make her read award winners periodically, but otherwise I try to let her select things she would like to read.

This is the Language Arts teacher in me, I guess.  I know my mother never asked what I was reading.  I think she just wanted me to read.  Seeing her read and taking her to the library was how she modeled what she wanted.

It can be a dangerous thing to too strongly censor what kids read, ESPECIALLY if the parents have never read the books in question.  I've seen this happen, and it makes no sense to me.  If a parent HAS read the book and thinks it is inappropriate, I have no problem with their decision.  But to censor a book simply because of what one has heard, or even from a book review, is thoughtless, in my opinion.

Take Anna Karenina, for example.  Someone who has never read this book and only read blurbs might just think it is a book about a Russian slut.  They might automatically write it off their list because it is about a woman who commits adultery.

Anyone who HAS read the novel knows that the entire book uses another character as a foil for Anna Karenina; a man who spends the entire novel in a constant state of moral consideration.  A man who ultimately chooses a much different path from Anna and not only survives but endures, thrives, finds a measure of peace that Anna never was able to attain.  He is a man who chooses God, who chooses hope and belief.

Of course, a certain amount of age-appropriate censorship is normal.  I won't allow my 5th grader to read The Great Gatsby.  It is too adult for her.  I would never condone my child reading any of the Fifty Shades of Stupid of Grey books.  But I have read the first one; it was terribly written.

Sometimes censoring stuff only makes the draw that much stronger for a kid.

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