The Subtle Ban

Banning books tends to increase their sales. I can remember when Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling was getting run through the ringer by the public who didn’t want their children exposed to magic. It’s still the best selling book series in history. Currently, there are folks all over the world in an uproar over sexually explicit illustrated books in the school library. I have questions. Honestly, who’s choosing these books? Is this high school or elementary? I, personally, don’t think such books have a place anywhere in a school; be it library, a teacher’s desk, or what have you.

We get a say in what our children are exposed to. Our children are our children – they don’t belong to the state and they don’t belong to the school board. If the parent’s wishes outnumber the parties responsible for choosing what goes onto the book shelves, so be it – make it so. No big deal. Books are for sale at Amazon, available at the public library, whatever. There’s no shortage of books.

Yet.

That won’t happen until people stop reading.

Some of my own (now adult) children like to read, some don’t. When they were in school, I was glad when they were reading a book, but I usually at least peaked at it – sometimes I read it and sometimes we watched the movie if it’d been made into one. When they were in grade school, I don’t remember any controversial books, aside from the aforementioned H.P. I do remember being concerned about Goosebumps being scary and all – but hey, they were reading, and for some of my children the Goosebumps were the last books they’d read for fun.

I’ve noticed, as a mother and as a grandmother, something happens to reading for pleasure along the way to adulthood. This (click to read an essay on the love of reading, writing, books) is missing from many of our children’s lives. It’s too bad because reading books is good for people on many levels. For instance, reading is credited for being instrumental in the life of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, i.e. reading is knowledge and knowledge is freedom!

I think the true banning of books begins long before the school board has to face an angry group of parents who are protesting the presence of pornography in their school library. It begins before a national outcry against tax-paying, school supporting, teacher-salary-providing parents who express concern about the books available for their children.

I believe the banning of books begins with omission when teachers don’t have D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) time, or when they fail to plan favorite book character days, or celebrate books and reading at all, ever, — in effect they’re aligning books to the often confusing texts of difficult learning as opposed to the exciting adventures in the pages of Goosebumps, Harry Potter, Henry Huggins, etc. The banning of books begins when parents buy more video games than the small rectangular objects, more apps and systems than books, allow more minutes per day on screens than pages. If parents got their kids hooked on good books, guided their reading, discussed what’s on the pages, this true banning by omission would not exist.

“The video arcade is down the street. Here we just sell small rectangular objects. They’re called books. They require a little effort on your part, and make no bee-beep-beeps. On your way please.” — Mr. Koreander, bookseller, The Neverending Story.

Banning something outright often makes it cool, and I’m all for making reading books a cool thing. Perhaps being aware of actual banned books, children will wonder at the mysterious rectangle objects with printed pages. Maybe we should ban more of them on an absolute and public level – perhaps the children would wonder long enough to put the video games down and pick up a book to see what the excitement’s about. This banning by omission is more subtle than the outright protesting of questionable material currently under fire. This invisible banning, this quasi-indifference, this outright apathy, is an ignorance our children will suffer a lifetime for, not just a school term.

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