Booking Through Thursday: Young Censorship

Booking Through Thursday

A meme from Booking Through Thursday.

Today’s topic is “I read an interesting blog post from the YA author A.S. King the other day that touched on censorship—especially as it pertains to young adult books.

Here’s an excerpt, but really, you should go read the whole thing because it’s fascinating:

I don’t know about you, but quiet censorship freaks me out. It’s the censorship that’s spoken over tea, over lunch, at random times when we are not prepared to answer because we are caught so off-guard that we really only think about what was said on the plane home. Last year I was asked to be on a censorship panel as an “expert.” I had to reply and say I was not an expert at official challenges. So far, my books haven’t had an official challenge as far as I know. Instead, I get embarrassed looks from dedicated librarians who whisper, “My principal won’t let me have that one in the stacks.” I have quiet un-invitations. I have quiet conversations with saddened teachers who tell me that a colleague said, “But you’re not going to actually give that book to students, are you?” I get quiet letters from devoted teachers who apologize for not being able to share my book with a student who needs it because of a fear of losing their job. Ah quiet. It is usually an indication that something really important is being withheld. Like the way we whisper cancer.

I think most of us are probably against censorship on principle, but … do you think it should vary depending on the impressionable age of the readers? Or is it always wrong? How about the difference between ‘official’ censorship by a government or a school system, as opposed to a parent saying No to a specific book for their child?”

Longest topic ever… I could write even more about it, but I will try not to ramble. I think A.S. King’s post is one of the best I’ve read. It has nothing to do with the fact that she is an author. She has seen all the sides. I went to library school. I learned all about censorship. One of the few things that King might not have experienced, but was personally horrifying to me, was that while I was in library school. I met current and future librarians, particularly school librarians, who wanted to shelter their own children and thus thought that all children should be sheltered… and didn’t see the censorship. It terrified me. Some didn’t want their children to read anything that even alluded to sex until high school, like that is even possible. They wanted to read everything their child would read, before the child. I bless my parents for not having that thinking. My parents and I read some of the same books but for enjoyment. My mother collected Newbery and Caldecott Winners. I went to the library and picked books I was interested in with the help of my favorite librarian. I can remember in 5th grade when she was replaced the new one asked me if I could handle one of the Redwall books. I still imagine that for a 5th grader that must have been a truly withering look, but I also remember the moment of terror when it made me question if she would let me have it, even though had she looked she would had seen that I had already read several of the series.

I believe that is the closest I’ve ever come to censorship and I’m glad of that. I’m horrified by how often I read about NC in regards to censorship. What King talks about though is something that the news never sees. The most secret censorship is librarians who don’t buy books they disagree with. She is right though. It doesn’t always go to the visible level. The fact that the chance to meet an author gets cancelled over such things makes me feel sick. I would have killed to meet any author as a child. Freedom of information. A lot of people like to say it, but it is a hard thing to really carry out. America is not a Christian nation. We no longer burn witches. We try to be fair, but we still struggle. Some places you still can’t marry the person you love, some people will still condemn you for it. Yet educators should try to be neutral. There should be books about everything. We make students read The Jungle but we don’t want them to read about things that could be truly relevant to their lives? No, you don’t want a fourth grader reading a bodice ripper, but if they think it is interesting looking, you tell them why you don’t think they should read it yet. If a kid can read it and really wants to read it, then you have discussion about things.

I think that in principle, official and parental censorship are the same. Just as official censorship does a disservice to the people, to the citizens and to the students, so does parental censorship do a disservice to their children. Except bad parenting isn’t something we can touch unless its physically dangerous. Even then it is still a battle sometimes when a child’s safety comes up against religion, just look in the news for the cases of faith healings, rather failed ones. I would imagine regardless of where you are from, people say the same things about preachers’ daughters, that they often have the worst rebellions. Ever think about why they got that reputation. You can try to deny things to your child based on your morals, logic, or principles without explanation but children will question, children should question. Discussion is how you truly teach, not by expecting blind faith. Your children are not you. They may grow into creatures that sometimes frighten you, but all you can do is help them grow and learn as much as possible along the way. Read to your kids, read with your kids, let them wander libraries touching book spines until one makes them feel just right.

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