Today I Bought a Book

Buying a book for myself isn’t rare; the nearly 100 unread books sitting on my bookcase or on my Kindle should be enough to make that obvious.

But today I bought a book for a reason I never have before. Today I bought a book because my own county “disinvited” the author (and book) from speaking to a group of high school students. And that makes me ragey.

Specifically, I bought THIS book:

eleanorandpark

The parents leading the discussion on getting rid of this book from the schools’ libraries cite profanity and inappropriate sexual situations as reason enough. They call for punishment of the teachers and librarians “irresponsible enough” to choose this book for their children to read.

In short, they say, the school system has failed their child.

I can think of ways the school system fails children (including their ass backwards policy toward homosexuality and bullying), but providing them books and encouraging them to read aren’t it. I do, however, think parents fail their children by expecting the school system to be in charge of teaching their children what is appropriate or not.

Your child, your responsibility. Period.

Here’s an alternative: read the book with your child and create an actual discussion about the characters’ behavior and why it might be wrong or inappropriate for your own child to act in a similar fashion. Talk about alternative behaviors or how to act if your child finds him or herself in that situation.

So yes. Even if this book has “inappropriate” material, it can still be a teaching tool. Do you honestly think kids aren’t exposed to profanity and sexual situations every day? I challenge anyone who thinks exposing kids to profanity is bad to spend a day in a high school hallway.

I remember sitting in my sophomore social studies class and listening to a fellow student talk about how drunk she was at a recent party and how she slept with guys. I remember one of my soccer teammates not being able to play soccer one year because she was pregnant. I remember my brother telling me how he saw drug deals happening in his high school hallways.

If you think banning a book portraying these behaviors is going to keep your child from engaging in them, you’re a fucking idiot.

Making something taboo only makes the behavior or situation more appealing. Not talking about something because it’s “bad” or “inappropriate” leaves children to their own devices when they’re exposed to the situation. Because you can bet they’re going to be exposed to it whether you talk with them about it or not.

And while I do think there are books children aren’t ready for, that’s something only a parent can make a judgment about. Every kid matures differently. I read Gone with the Wind when I was 11, yo. Kids are probably going to read books whether you want them to or not. I highly doubt my mom wanted me to read a steady diet of adult romances when I was in high school, but I did it anyway because that’s what I liked.

Every BOOK has varying degrees of value. Value in the sense that their portrayals of situations or people are healthy. But books that have unhealthy relationships (take Twilight, for instance) can also provide opportunities for talk on what healthy relationships should look like. In other words, you should never hand a book to a child and assume that they’ll figure out what’s right or wrong about it. They may not.

In fact, books with unhealthy relationships or inappropriate situations can provide your child a SAFE environment to experience these things without going through them themselves. Simulated experiences. Like pilots flying in simulators before ever getting in a plane.

Eleanor & Park supposedly has 227 instances of profanity. That provides 227 opportunities for discussion on profanity, the context of their use, and when it’s appropriate to use profanity (and YES, “never” can be a legit answer if that’s how you really feel).

Why does this society feel it necessary to run and ban anything that’s “different”? What’s wrong with providing our children the opportunity to discuss LIFE? They’re not going to magically understand everything at age 18 because they’re now EIGHTEEN and an adult. You don’t wake up on the morning of your 18th birthday and suddenly become able to handle the pressures and situations of an adult because you’re AN ADULT!

You’ve got to learn it somewhere. Books are a safe place.

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6 thoughts on “Today I Bought a Book

    • I wished more people approached books this way. I also think that banning teens from reading these books sells them short. Teens aren’t young children—they’re young adults. They can handle more than we realize.

  1. I’m sorry, but isn’t it 2013? Why are we still banning books?

    The ignorance astounds me. Well no, it really doesn’t. It should, but it doesn’t. But it does anger me.

    I will be following your lead and buying her book, though I hadn’t planned to read this particular one. But now? I will support this author with everything I have because no book deserves to be banned from any forum.

    • Mandi, I have no words. NO WORDS. They all end up as one loud wheeze of anger and a fist shake of despair.

      I hadn’t intended to read Eleanor & Park either, but now I will. Now I’m ready to speak out against banning books AND the importance of parents taking an interest in their kids’ reading.

      And not taking an interest as in getting books banned. But interest as in creating dialogue with their teen. No. Not just teens—any kid who reads. Start young and establish the routine of reading and discussing books with your kids.

  2. I don’t understand the whole book banning concept and I never have. When my kids were younger they had friends whose parents wanted Harry Potter banned. Another parent pulled her daughter out of class because the teacher was reading a Roald Dahl book. Those instances still have me shaking my head. Not only did we have Harry Potter and most of Roald Dahl books in our house, I read them right along with my kids.

    I liked it when my kids read books that pushed the limits. I liked it when they read books about things that they hadn’t been exposed to before. I liked it when they read books that made them ask questions and most of all think and see things from a different perspective. I still do and even though 3 daughters are adults, we still talk about the books they read. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

    • Books in and of themselves aren’t dangerous. I read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead when I was 18. Rather than prescribing to any of her radical beliefs, the book taught me to love myself and that changing myself for others was futile and stupid.

      Books that have “inappropriate” content or even contain belief systems you don’t subscribe to aren’t BAD—they create opportunities to expand your world view. You don’t to agree or condone what happens in a book to walk away from it with something positive.

      But the thing about reading with your kids and talking with them is that it takes time and commitment. And not the time and commitment of your local librarian. It’s called parenting, not librarianing. I don’t understand how parents can stand up and say the library and school system failed their kids. PARENTS fail their kids.

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