Self Censorship Better Than Book Banning

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Growing up, I made my own choices and censored the books I thought weren’t worth my time, for whatever reason.

I choose. Not a school board. Not a library. Not my teacher. Me.

I am grateful for the ability to choose what I read. Then and now. And I think it’s a freedom we must extend to everyone.

teach your children how to choose books wisely, don't ban them

Banned Books, Parenting, and Schools

In 2011, a Missouri school board voted to ban two books from their high school library — Twenty Boy Summer by YA author Sarah Ockler and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

Sarah Ockler responded brilliantly to the news saying, “Look, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times more. I get that my book isn’t appropriate for all teens, and that some parents are opposed to the content. That’s fine. Read it and decide for your own family. I wish more parents would do that — get involved in their kids’ reading and discuss the issues the books portray. But don’t make that decision for everyone else’s family by limiting a book’s availability and burying the issue under guise of a “curriculum discussion.

Here’s the problem: Censorship takes away the reader’s right to choose. It takes away an important freedom to think critically for oneself.

The National Teachers of English explains in The Students’ Right to Read: “Freedom of inquiry is essential to education in a democracy.”

Read Write Think offers a lesson plan for teachers about examining banned books, and the American Library Association provides a wealth of resources for librarians.

If you’re a teacher, you can find information and activities on NCTE, The NY Times, and Banned Book Week.

As parents, we can stand against censorship for all and teach our children how to make good book choices and how to self-censor. In other words, as a parent, I teach my children how to select an appropriate book for themselves. As Ockler said, if it’s not something I want my child to read, I’d rather my kids know how to decide for themselves what book fits our family’s guidelines. (Not have the choice taken away from them!)

Banned Book Week Activities

Banned Books Week varies from year to year but is usually at the end of September and beginning of October.

“Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.” – Voltaire

Do you read banned books? What are your favorites?

How do you help your child learn to self-censor?

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  1. I’m all about letting my daughter make her own book choices. She is eight, and reading is probably her main passtime, and has been for the past couple of years. We discuss every book she reads, and often I read them as well (at night when she is asleep, because it makes for better discussions).

    There have been times when she has picked out a book at the store, only to get halfway through it, and find that it has themes or situations that don’t match with our values. Each time this happened, we talked about it. We used those talks as a learning experience. One of the books was the second in a series that she was looking forward to reading, but after the second book, she decided she didn’t want to finish the series, and I was proud of her decision – but it was a decision that I allowed her to make.

  2. I’m also against of banning books but I think there should always a time for everything. Like, I will allow my kids for a certain book if she/he is in the right age. Parent plays an important role in this case. They should be the one to dictate on what books are appropriate for their children age.

  3. Just because a book is banned by a school board does not mean it is banned from our children entirely. There are many books that aren’t appropriate for young readers to be able to obtain in a school library – do we really need to supply “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask” or “Hollywood Wives” in school libraries? I personally don’t think so, but that child or their parents are free to go somewhere else and either purchase or borrow those books and read them. I also prefer that school libraries don’t offer examples of poor writing like Harlequin Romances, that have their place, but not in school libraries.

    1. I understand what you’re saying, Linda, but think that common sense and trust in the librarian should prevail. Don’t you think we should hire librarians with good judgement who wouldn’t order books like the ones you mentioned instead of making rules about individual books?

      ~ Melissa

      1. I believe that hiring a librarian who will choose well is pretty much the same as banning certain books. Maybe there are terms that I am not up on and so hiring a librarian that chooses wisely isn’t quite the same, but the end effect is the same. I still believe that if it isn’t available at the school, then the family has many other options for finding books that may not be at the school, including public libraries. I do have an issue with a public library banning books in any way unless the books would be considered pornography which would then make for a different story, but even that has a lot of gray area.

  4. I completely agree! I am a mom of 5 and very active in my religion. I still don’t believe in banning books because with that will follow restrictions in our freedom of speech.

    I think you had some very smart parents. We can teach children to read with a critical eye and censor information for themselves. We shouldn’t be leaving this job to anyone else, nor should we ever allow someone else to come in and take over that job.

    Thanks for the post!

  5. I HATE the thought of banning books. I don’t want anyone to tell me what my children can and can’t read. For instance my brother is gay, so books that include homosexuality are just a part of life in my family – I understand that might not be the case in others. My daughter is reading the Twilight series this summer. She’s 10. I read each of the books before her and we discuss them after. She’s loving them!