As a huge fan of our Constitution‘s First Amendment, Banned Books Week is one of my favorite weeks of the year. It feels a little like doing battle with the specter of the Dark Ages. Banned books? Is this even a thing in 2019? In America?
My daughter and I have a longstanding tradition stemming from a day she came home from middle school and told me that Fahrenheit 451 “wasn’t allowed” at her school. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I drove my child to Barnes & Noble and bought her a copy – plus any other book from the “Banned and Challenged” display she found interesting. The only condition: She had to take Fahrenheit 451 to class, pull it out during free reading time, and read – conspicuously.
Mama was loaded for bear.
She came home the next day and informed me that the book wasn’t actually “banned” at her school; it had been a misunderstanding. But from that day on, I took my kids to the bookstore and encouraged them to choose a book from the “Banned and Challenged” table. It was a great opportunity to talk about the power of the written word, censorship, and why some people might find the free exchange of ideas threatening.
You know your kids. If you want to create voracious readers, take them out for a Banned Books Week shopping spree. Or, if they’re little rebels, give them a glimpse of the table, turn them away from it with a look of stern disapproval, and say, “When you’re older.” Then walk away after making sure they have pocket money to buy any book but one from the “Banned and Challenged” display. Pretend not to notice their surreptitious purchase.
I preferred being subversive with my kids to butting heads with them for no good reason. But then, I was raised by a woman who swore she made sure my flashlight had fresh batteries, so I could read under the blanket well after lights out. We used to joke that the only book kept under lock and key in our house, when I was growing up, was Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Between Parent and Child. I learned all about reverse psychology by the age of 12. I only remember my mother asking, nicely, that I not read one book; she left it out, well within my reach, but to this day, I haven’t had any interest in reading it.
It was not the hugely popular novel that had the first use of a twelve-letter obscenity my mom and grandmother had ever seen in print. THAT, I skimmed. It wasn’t all that interesting; I can’t even remember the author or title, now. Once I figured out what the naughty word was that had so shocked my elders, I put the book aside.
You can revel in this reading rebellion right along with us – check out Literature Locked Up, then sign the petition to help stop the largest book ban in America!
Shop for banned books, right here or, better yet, at your local independent brick-and-mortar bookstore: