So, here we go…it’s Banned Books Week! Something that, when you’re as immersed in the KidLit world on the internet to the degree I am, is impossible to miss. Discussion is ablaze, reaching virtually every corner of the realm of literature. It can be a heated topic, for sure, which is something I typically avoid online, but I don’t think what I’m going to say here will create any hoopla. Honestly, the reason I’m blogging about it at all is because I thought it was the appropriate time to offer a little gift for Harry Potter fans: a one-of-a-kind download! Why now? Because the Harry Potter series is BANNED*! What started out as a little download ultimately became a full-blown post about banning books. I’ll be curious to hear what you think:
First of all, I’m not what you would call an activist in any way, shape or form. My methods of trying to make a positive difference in the world aren’t of that nature. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions. I’ve always had plenty of those 🙂
Yes, there are many publications and venues of which I, personally, completely object to, and if they didn’t exist at all I’d feel better about humankind and would live less cautiously in that respect, BUT—that’s not the world we live in.
In the case of banning books, I wholly understand the fear behind it, certainly as a parent. Most of us have what I consider a very natural concern about what our children are exposed to, especially during formative years. We want to be able to control these things and—to a degree—we can. The thing is, regardless of how much we succeed at this, as soon as our child steps out of our sight, even to the privacy of their own room, we lose that control. What we as parents try to enforce is what we do or don’t allow in our homes, and what we do or don’t allow our children to partake in. If we have standards, whether morally, ethically, religiously or whatever, to instill these things in our children, we must do it actively and consistently. As with anything else in respect to parenting, we do our best and hope that whatever our children are faced with in life, they are equipped with the tools they need to make the best decisions. We want them to be safe. Most of us want our children to be decent, “good” people. Not an easy task in the world we live in, where the lines that define the differences between right and wrong have become quite blurred due to a constant barrage of ever-changing influences.
Here’s the thing about the challenging and banning of books: in our country, the U.S., when it comes to reading material, this is a collective attempt to ban specific books “across the board.” It’s the “across the board” aspect that I think is the issue at the forefront for most advocates of Banned Books Week largely because what one individual considers inappropriate reading material, another may see as appropriate, holding to the opinion that outside forces shouldn’t dictate the availability of that material.
I had time to only glean information on Banned Books Week, but basically its message is: NO BANNING! I hadn’t come across any satisfactory solutions that would work for both sides. Just as in politics or any arena in which there are opposing opinions of an extreme “black vs. white” nature, it can be difficult to find a grey area in which compromise can be found. For anyone who knows me, you knew I’d have suggestions for solutions. Didn’t you? Of course you did! 🙂 That’s not to say these suggestions would be easy to achieve, but they are not impossible and, I believe, actually feasible. I certainly think it’s a better alternative to this futile battle!
I can’t imagine this has not been considered, and I feel I’m stating the obvious, but to me, rather than banning, the best way to handle this is through a rating system—categorization. The critical differences between the two are these: banning completely omits the availability of specific reading material, while categorization (with possible seclusion, certainly of material “adult” in nature) keeps material available IF someone chooses it and is permitted to do so.
What is it that would classify literature any differently than other forms of media, such as movies, music and video games? There is a rating system for them! Obviously it has been accomplished, so can certainly be accomplished in this arena. So how to go about it? I think the basics would involve appointing a competent board to painstakingly and sensibly categorize the material. I see this as a more reasonable way to spend the money and time now being spent banning books and fighting that action, and I believe it would be more effective. NO system is infallible, just as the systems in rating the other venues aren’t 100% “perfect,” but it does allow for informed choices. What it comes down to, I think, is with whom lies the responsibility. To me, it lies with everyone involved: the parents, the schools, the libraries and the bookstores.
Parents: be active in your children’s lives and interests—teach your children well and try to realize and accept what you can, cannot, should and should not control.
Schools and public libraries; to the powers that be: take the time and shoulder the responsibility to appoint a capable board to properly categorize reading material without having to completely omit it. It is possible to develop a system which should satisfy the groups and caregivers raising objections, seeking better control of what children read. Thinking with my organizational perspective, I believe this can be accomplished through a color-coded sticker system used to label the spines of books, indicating types of content. Then, through choices made by parents via permission slips as to which categories their child is limited/not limited to reading, library cards can be color-coded accordingly. This is not rocket science, nor is it unachievable.
Bookstores: return to being more respectful to ALL patrons by keeping questionable** material (magazines, book covers, posters, etc.) out of the face of the general public, yet available to those who wish to read or purchase it.
OK, so there you have it—my opinion, little though it may be. How valid anyone else thinks it is, well—that’s a matter of opinion, too, right? 🙂 And to wind up this post, I’d like to share a video I discovered through Mr. Schu’s blog. It was created by author/illustrator Dav Pilkey (the Captain Underpants series) specifically to address the banning of books. I think he captured, perfectly, the proper approach concerning attitude toward the whole issue—what seems fair to me. I hope you enjoy it along with my Harry Potter Outlines:
* I realize that one of the biggest objections to the Harry Potter series is the content of “magic.” My belief system most definitely does not condone magic, and all things related, as a practice. I hold to my opinion that the responsibility of instilling belief systems is that of the caregivers. If done successfully, a young reader will unlikely be swayed by a work of fiction. Banning books is, in my opinion, an ineffective and unconstitutional method in the effort to prevent exposure to influences which go against any specific belief system or preference. Free will is always at play, regardless from where come the sources of influence. The act of banning removes “choice,” the thing which, whether given by God or democratic government, is our right. What needs to be determined is the balanced, fair and, in this case, protective way to afford choice in the world we live in.
** When I use the word “questionable,” it refers to subject matter which is commonly considered inappropriate in nature.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post and I hope to hear what you have to say about this subject!