26 September 2013

Musing on Parents, Kids and Banned Books

I'm a parent of three children, one junior high student and two elementary school students. I'm a hovering sort of parent, keeping them in my line of sight. I don't like leaving the kids at their various activities alone. It's also not because I don't trust the instructors or other parents to act in my best interest should something terrible happen, but because they are my kids and my responsibility. (I want to be there for and with them.)

My husband and I want our children to be happy, healthy, contributing members of society. We take this responsibility seriously. We strongly encourage (ok, sometimes bribe) the kids to each their veggies, make sure they get their 8-10 hours of sleep, make sure that we know their friends, and introduce ourselves to the parents of their close friends. We think of ourselves as involved parents who know what is going on in our kids lives, at least most of the time.

Which might make you think that we censor our kids' music, books, and movies. We don't. Nickelback, with their racy lyrics, is on our kids' playlists. We've bought them all their own copies of the Harry Potter Series books. We watched "The Help" together. (Yes, even the little one watched. Her expression was priceless when we explained the type of pie that Miss Hilly ate.)

Don't get me wrong, we won't let our 1st grader read "Lord of the Flies" yet. Only because she wouldn't understand it at this point in her educational career. However, when the kids get around to reading it, I'll certainly be interested in hearing their opinions.

Our policy is to not ban the media, so long as it's mostly age-appropriate. Instead we talk about it as we listen, watch, or read it together. We discuss the questionable content, why we don't agree with it, why certain words are not to be repeated, why certain attitudes and actions are or aren't allowed in our house, and why it's important to respect the opinion of others, especially if you don't agree with them.

So it always surprises me when Banned Week comes around and I read that parents challenge and get books banned from a school's curriculum or library. Prohibiting your child from reading something? That seems like waving the red cape in front of the angry bull, making the book all the more alluring. (Or at least, it does for my kids.)

Many of these challenged books reveal something about human nature that shocks and angers. (Human nature isn't all love and empathy. Shocking, I know.) There may be a few individuals who read these stories and think the sex, violence, abusive language, questionable behavior depicted something to act out. However, they are the few. From my own observations, most people don't react that way. (No one from my high school graduating class has gone tried a "Lord of the Flies" camp with anyone. Thank goodness.)

I respect that some parents may prohibit their children to read certain stories. That is within their responsibility and right. Every parent has the right to determine, with their child's best interests at heart, what story and when said story can be read. I object when a few parents take it to the extreme and decide for everyone else.

So in support of Banned Books Week, here are some links that I suggest you check out.
FWIW: After perusing the list at the Wikipedia, I'll be reading "The Pillars of the Earth" in honor of Banned Books week. I'll also have the kids pick out a book or two.

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