Banning books is like banning eyesight, or hearing, or taste, touch, or smell. It’s an attempt to make kids blind and deaf to the world around them, to protect them from reality. It’s wrong, and completely ineffective. As the parent of teenagers, I disagree with this impulse, but I do understand it.
It’s scary to send our kids into the world protected only by the values and common sense we’ve tried to instill in them over the years, with varying degrees of success. Can people who lose their own shoes possibly be expected to read about something like drug use and not immediately go out and try it themselves?
I think they can. I know they can because I know a lot of teenagers who read a lot of books and these kids are more thoughtful and educated about the world around them than some adults I know.
In 8th grade, my son’s class read Night by Elie Wiesel. This is a dark and difficult book, but my son’s English teacher went through the text slowly and with sensitivity. My other son read The Giver in middle school, another heavy book, and some parents had issues with it. But again, my son had a fantastic teacher who led them through the text in a thoughtful way. It became one of his favorite books.
Unfortunately, in the age of the internet our kids are exposed to all kinds of terrible stuff. They are one click away from the vilest content imaginable. But there are no teachers or parents in the dark corners of the internet to discuss it with them, to help them understand what they are seeing and why they are seeing it.
However, when you read a book, you process strange, different, difficult things in your own time and in your own way. The difficult images are conjured by your own imagination. Most importantly, this information is presented with WORDS, not with audio or video. Written material seeps in slowly. Pictures and sound whack you across the head. They slap you in the face and slice right through you. This happens immediately, with no time to prepare or process what you’re seeing and hearing.
Kids will be exposed to difficult things, things parents disagree with, things parents fear. But books are the kindest, gentlest, most sensitive way for kids to be exposed to the hard realities of life and the world. And perhaps if they read about these things, and the inevitable consequences, they are less likely to seek out drugs, dystopias, post apocalyptic landscapes, war, human sacrifice, and televised games where kids kill each other bows and arrows to win the Hunger Games.
So let the kids read. Let them learn about life through books, rather than YouTube videos and the dark web. I read books I had no business reading when I was a kid.
It turned me into a writer. God help us all.