For those of you who don’t know, Banned Books Week ended yesterday. Banned Books Week is a yearly event celebrating the freedom to read. It celebrates books challenged by schools, churches, libraries, and more.
I’ve posted in years past about my thoughts on the issue and it’s still extremely relevant.
I will never get over the irony of Fahrenheit 451 being banned because it talks about burning books.
People haven’t stopped banning books and I don’t think they ever will. Last month, I read an article in my local newspaper, The Tampa Tribune, about Pasco County banning Paper Towns by John Green due to mention of masturbation and the reference to girls as “honey bunnies” which was misogynistic.
First off, context.
The entire point of the word “honey bunnies” being used to describe girls is that Ben, the character who uses that term, is absolutely ridiculous. He doesn’t know how to pick up girls and the main character points out that as long as he keeps calling girls that, they’re not going to go for him. It’s not endearing, and every other character knows that “honey bunny” is never going to work as a pickup line.
Secondly, I honestly think that parents like the one that had Paper Towns banned are doing their children a disservice.
You can’t let your child be independent without allowing them to censor things for themselves.
Up until I was about twelve, my mom approved books that I picked from the bookstore just by reading the back. She didn’t go to extreme parent-filter websites or whatever. She didn’t want the topic of the book to be anything sexual or graphic, but figured it was okay if it was mentioned without going into too much detail.
I secretly read Pretty Little Liars in sixth grade and snuck Impossible by Nancy Werlin up to my bedroom to read after everyone else fell asleep. I read free ebooks on the computer and ended up reading probably way more than I was originally allowed to read. But I stopped reading when I felt like it got too inappropriate, or was a little grittier than I expected.
I self-censored because I was taught how to think for myself.
The most beneficial way to educate somebody is to let them want to learn. I want to learn about politics, current events, pick up skills. I want to learn about sports and music and culture. That’s because my parents took me to the bookstore when I was little; I was rewarded by picking out books for myself. The fastest way to learn is to read.
That’s how I have the vocabulary I have now, the database of facts and ideas that I’ve developed through dozens of books and dozens of articles. I’ve read over 900+ books in the past four years and all of them have contributed to my identity as a person. Self-education is how I have created myself. It’s why I have the ambition that I do. It’s why I’m able to pursue it.
Taking that away from somebody because you think they can’t handle it is just wrong. They’re going to be in the real world eventually and tampering that down, leaves them uneducated and even more vulnerable. Reading protects you and it makes you into who you are. It exposes you to awful and REAL situations without undergoing them yourself and that is a valuable, valuable thing.
I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this before but reading books from the perspective of people who have made bad choices has made me much more aware of how easily it could happen to me. It’s made me a lot more careful with what I do and how I act. It’s also made me so much more empathetic to the people around me.
I like reading different perspectives because I will only ever have one life, one perspective. It’s rare and beautiful and helpful to read from other peoples’ viewpoints. It makes me a much better person for that.
We deserve the right to read.