“There is no such thing as a moral book or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.”
— Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891
The last week of September is banned books week, marked by booksellers and libraries across the United States. As I’ve been looking into information on this week, I’ve found a dizzying number of lists of banned books. Harry Potter tops many recent lists, and so does my recent sob novel Bridge to Terebithia. Gone With the Wind, The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men – many of the greatest books of the 20th century have been challenged and banned from schools and libraries.
Those books don’t surprise you? How about The Lorax? Challenged for “criminalizing the foresting industry.” Or Where’s Waldo? Removed from a school library for “nudity” (a tiny picture of a woman lying on a beach wearing a bikini bottom but no top). A Light in the Attic, Little House on the Prairie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – all these wonderful books have faced attempts to ban them from libraries and curriculums. [source here]
As parents, we are gatekeepers to our children’s minds and morals. If you don’t want your child to read a book, don’t have it in the house. If it’s on a required curriculum, ask that your child read an alternate title. Just please don’t try to impose your morality on others.
This week is a great time to talk to your children about banned books. A list of local libraries and merchants with displays can be found here. I’ve talked about this with my children as we’ve looked at the banned books displayed at our library. Reading is a freedom. But along with that freedom comes a responsibility to choose wisely and listen to guidance from parents. I don’t want Drama Girl to read the Gossip Girl books right now, but I’m reading Twilight with her, and heaven knows she’s read an enormous number of the books on the lists. My son has read and enjoyed Phillip Pullman’s books, but he knows the difference between what that author espouses and what we teach at home and in our Church.
This week I think we’ll act like outlaws and read James and the Giant Peach together.
“The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion…”
— Henry Steel Commager