From September 24th to October 2nd, Banned Books Week took place, an event sponsored by a variety of organizations including the American Library Association and the Association of American Publishers “to celebrate our freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment,” according to the ALA. During this time, live events occurred across the country and much discussion took place online as well, with bloggers adding their voices to the conversation.
While I didn’t participate at the time, I appreciate the cause they champion, because censorship and banning of books or the expression of free speech start down a dangerous path. Reading through the ALA website provides an illuminating experience. The challenges to ban books come from all parts of society—the government and elected officials, pressure groups, parents, teachers, and many more. And the books banned or requested to be removed include classic fantasy novels, such as Lord of the Rings and A Wrinkle in Time. Or if you expand the scope beyond fantasy novels, you find a wide range of classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or To Kill a Mockingbird.
Classics aside, many books on the banned list I do find objectionable and would likely never read, much less permit my children to read. Others would require reading with care. So I understand expressing concerns over a book and even vocalizing your concerns—and the value of subjecting books to critique and thoughtful discussion. But banning material and turning over the choice of what to read to governmental authorities or school officials is hardly the appropriate solution. Often Christians (and many other groups) respond with knee-jerk reactions, declaring that if a book is disturbing it should be banned, without realizing this strategy is likely to backfire and cause far more harm than good.
For example, who is to say that books with faith themes might not be banned altogether as objectionable? Quite a few of the books on this list have religious reasons cited. The very logic Christians use may end up turned against them.
Instead of championing a book ban, I suggest practicing discernment in reading, both personally and in what your children read. Take responsibility as an individual to analyze what you’re reading, and as a parent to ensure your children read appropriate materials and are taught to exercise discernment and critical thinking at age appropriate levels.
Thoughtful arguments that express valid concerns regarding questionable books, care and discretion in personal reading choices, and oversight and guidance of children’s reading material provide a far more effective strategy in managing concerns about books than banning them altogether.
Your thoughts? I welcome opinions, even if they differ!