By Brook Thompson
Although America is far more liberal than it was a century ago, books still continue to be banned across schools and libraries. Some novels, like Looking for Alaska, are banned because they contain profanity, drug use, and sexual themes.
Other novels, like the literary classic The Catcher in the Rye, are banned for their use of profanity, teen drinking, and violence. More recently, some schools tried to remove the classic To Kill a Mockingbird from their reading lists because of racism.
Despite these novels’ content, books should not be censored. Trying to censor kids books can become counterproductive. Kids are curious creatures. Telling them not to read a particular book will only prompt them to read it anyway.
While I’m not advocating for not monitoring what your kids can/cannot read, I do recommend that you let your child read whatever they want based on their maturity level.
When I was 11, I opened my first romance novel, Twilight. I was told by both my teacher and peers that the story was terrible and that it promoted sex and unhealthy relationships.
For the record, the first Twilight novel does not contain sex, but does allude to an unhealthy relationship. Even when I was 11 years old, I had a basic understanding of what a healthy relationship is.
Therefore, you need to give your children some credit whenever you feel wary about introducing them to a potential “inappropriate” book. Children are resilient and have a basic understanding of right and wrong.
However, if you are still feeling unsure about what to do, here are three reasons why you should not censor what your kid reads.
Reasons not to censor kids books:
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1.Most books contain good lessons and morals.
It is a safe assumption to say that all books have a purpose and have messages to give to the audience. Some books do a great job communicating that explicitly, while in other novels a reader must read between the lines.
Let’s look at John Green’s Looking for Alaska. In 2015, a school in Kentucky tried to have the book banned due to parents complaining about the novel’s heavy use of profanity, references to drugs/alcohol, and one sexually explicit scene.
Parents were concerned that the book would encourage their children to look at pornography, have sex, or use drugs, alcohol, and profanity.
English teacher Emily Veatch had initially assigned the novel for her senior literature class, so she wrote a letter to the school board explaining the literary merit of Looking for Alaska. She explains that the book has the opposite effect on children.
She pointed out that Looking for Alaska has really good messages. The book explores themes of friendship, finding yourself, and grief. A lot of these lessons may be hard to read about, but, in the long run, will help your child know how to deal with whatever life throws at them.
Kids, especially teens, are trying to figure themselves out. They can relate to Looking for Alaska’s protagonist Miles, who had started attending a boarding school to seek a “Great Perhaps.”
There, he connects with a group of students, including the titular girl Alaska. As cliché as it sounds, he does learn about self-discovery and the value of friendship when Alaska tragically dies in the middle of the novel.
Green’s brilliant writing explores the five stages of grief, showing how the different characters handle Alaska’s death and the toll it takes on her peers. Allowing teenagers to read the book teaches them to handle their own grief and how to deal with their emotions.
2.Books provide great coping mechanisms.
Books are a wonderful source of entertainment, but they even help children come to terms with their own problems and cope.
With mental illnesses increasing amongst teens and young adults, many feel isolated and scared. I would know since I was one of them. When I was in high school, I struggled with both anxiety and depression. I didn’t know how to handle it and felt like I was the only one going through it.
That is, until I read The Catcher in the Rye during my senior year of high school. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I could relate to a novel’s protagonist.
The Catcher in the Rye’s bad reputation dates back to 1960. It has been banned by teachers, school boards, and parents because it supposedly promotes violence, teen drinking, and sex.
On the surface, the novel might appear that way, but, upon further inspection, the story is about a young boy that just wants to have a meaningful connection with anyone. He is not entirely over his little brother’s death and is depressed, scared, and lonely.
I remember when I initially read The Catcher in the Rye my senior year, I saw many parallels between Holden’s life and my own. I had a very negative outlook on the world and wanted nothing more than to connect with my peers.
However, having that emotional connection with a character helped me, and potentially other teens, cope with their feelings as well.
Being a teen is scary. Everything is changing – bodies, settings, interests, and possibly even friends. There is no sense of permanence or stability, which can leave a person feeling stressed out, frustrated, or scared. Many teens have feelings of loneliness and isolation.
However, having a fictional character that teens can relate to, like Holden, can help them understand that they are not alone and can even help them cope with their feelings.
3. Books can provide a different perspective.
What I always found interesting about books is that authors offer different perspectives and worldview on particular topics. For example, To Kill A Mockingbird is all about seeing another person’s view.
One famous quote from the book, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
When you’re a kid, it’s difficult to see things from another person’s perspective. You haven’t experienced much yet and only understand situations through your own worldview.
Harper Lee acknowledges that fact through her character Scout as she grows up in Monroeville, Alabama. In one particular scene in the book, she gets mad at her teacher for not understanding that her classmate is dirty and rude because of his family. Her father reminds her that her teacher is new to Monroeville and isn’t knowledgeable of all the families and their habits. He also reminds her to be patient with her teacher and try to “walk around in her skin.”
Despite the novel’s great messages, it is also still being banned in classrooms around America. In 2017, for example, a parent complained about the language used in the book. They worried that because some students laughed about the book’s use of racial slurs, it could change students’ perceptions of their child and negatively impact the child’s self-esteem.
Censoring what a child reads can potentially stunt their emotional growth. As shown in the above examples, books can teach important life lessons, such as how to cope with grief or how to make friends.
Books can also show teens how to handle their emotions and remind them that there are other people experiencing the same situation. Books provide different perspectives on topics that will increase a child’s worldview and allow them to see situations through another person’s perspective. So, instead of censor kids books, give your children leeway in what they can read.