Wait. What? We're Still Banning Books?

You wanna step outside, Beulah?

Field of Dreams is in my Top 5 Favorite Movies of All Time. Heck, it's probably in the Top 3. or 2.

First, there are a ton of great quotes:

Is this heaven?
No. It's Iowa.
Iowa? I cold have sworn this was heaven.
Son, if I'd only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes... now that would have been a tragedy
You're a pacifist!
Hey Dad...you wanna have a catch?

Second, there are two amazing speeches. This one about baseball brings me to tears, and I wept openly and without shame when I went to the Louisville Slugger museum and heard James Earl Jones narrate the tour's intro movie.


Sadly, it's this speech that is relevant to today's blog post.

Check out this headline from yesterday. Yesterday!

Click here to read the full article, but the summary is pretty quick. 

One parent complained about "sexual content," so Superintendent Joseph Langowski apparently ordered teachers to remove the book immediately, without regard for district policy. 

To which I say:

My Kids Read Banned Books

I used to struggle with what to let my kids read. Ellie waited a lot longer than many of her friends to read "The Hunger Games," fr example.

I've changed my view on the topic, and my kids are now free to read pretty much any book they want. In fact, during Banned Book Week last month, I offered to buy Ellie and Ben any book on the "Most Challenged YA Books" list she wanted. Without hesitation, she chose John Green's Looking for Alaska, The very same book that was banned unilaterally by a district superintendent in New Jersey yesterday. (Yesterday!)

What changed?

1. I remembered what I was reading when I was in middle school, and I turned out mostly OK. 

Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire series
Jackie Collins
"Bodice ripper" historical romances I nicked from my mom's shelves
Judy Blume's Forever and Are you There God, It's Me, Margaret
Go Ask Alice
Elie Wiesel's Night series
Time-Life Books on WWII
Anne Frank's Diary
(Everything about the Holocaust I could find)
Alive Walker's The Color Purple
Stephen King
Robin Cook
Dean Koontz
Ray Bradbury

... and a non-Disneyfied collection of fairy tales that I've since passed along to my own kids.

2. I read a few articles and heard a story on NPR about how "kids these days" don't read enough "hard" books*. Not "hard" in terms of challenging vocabulary and syntax, but difficult in terms of complex emotions, story-lines, situations, and conclusions.

I scoffed. Not my kids! But then I realized that my kid's library, especially when they were younger, was largely filled with "The world is wonderful, and you are wonderful, and everyone is happy, and life is not complicated!" books. And I'd been holding the reins pretty tight as they got older. As a mother, I didn't want them to be upset by a book. I wanted them to see that things work out.


Not every ending is happy. I learned so much from watching Katherine go through her very first love and sexual experience with Michael in Judy Blume's Forever. She fell in love hard, made a decision that she couldn't take back, got her heart broken, and she survived it all. I rode the roller coaster with her, and thought "If she can do it, I can do it."

Kids need to find themselves in books and see how their fictional peers react to a wide range of complex situations. Then they can ask themselves, "Would I have done that?" "Should I do that?" "I'm go glad I'm not the only one to have done that."

Life lessons are tough to learn -- why not learn some of them by letting fictional character make the bad choices and live out the consequences?

3. We can keep reading together and share genuine interest.

4. It's private.

I never (ever!) would have had a conversation about sex with my mother as open as the one I had with Judy Blume. Remember "Go Ask Alice?" How many of us had conversations that real about drug use in the Just Say No 80s?

The most challenged/banned book in the past 10 years is Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. One of the main reasons it's challenged? It mentions that the main character -- a 12-year-old boy -- masturbates. And he likes it. Gasp! I love Sherman Alexie, and I love that book, and both my kids have read it, but we didn't have family chats about those scenes. There must be a place to read, learn, and think about mature issues in private. 

5. Books are Magic

Every book is a T.A.R.D.I.S., a time machine that can travel back and forth and through imaginations and dimensions and species -- and no matter where it takes you, or how uncomfortable you are when you get there, that world ends at the book's covers. You always end up safe at home, better or having gone through the journey. 

If you're lucky, your supper will be waiting for you, still hot.

*Article links

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