Books I've Read

How Freedom to Read Applies to Children

Eric Carle Books

On Sunday I posted about Banned Books Week and included a poem by Ellen Hopkins that denounces censorship.

A few hours later cyclingrandma, whom I had never met before but was really glad she found me, replied to my post. Through that comment I found her own post on the subject. She brought up something very interesting and pertinent to my own life about freedom to read. Because I’ll be honest, I hadn’t really thought about how the subject fit into my personal life so much as it fit into my wannabe writer life. But cyclingrandma’s words called me out:

“As a teacher, I encouraged free choice in reading and taught a “Banned Book Week” unit.  As a parent, I allowed total freedom of choice in reading, even as I cringed when my very young sons insisted I read the adventures of He-Man and She-Ra in the Masters of the Universe series endlessly.  My daughter only wanted picture books about dogs.    A friend of mine’s daughter only read books with the word “cat” in the title.  These children, all adults now, became avid readers, consuming titles across genres.” (Read more HERE)

Did you read that, let me repeat: “As a parent, I allowed total freedom of choice in reading, even as I cringed when my very young sons insisted I read the adventures of He-Man and She-Ra in the Masters of the Universe series endlessly.”

Yes. That part. That part that made me go, “Oh.” So when I question  my son’s desire to re-read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? every single night before bed, I’m censoring him? Hmm. Or when I try to hide the “THINGS THAT GO!” book which just details the working parts of tractors, trucks, and boats, but tells no story, I’m censoring him? Good point.

Freedom to read isn’t just about allowing children to read challenged or banned books, it’s allowing them to read freely–period. These books may not have plots. They may not teach life lessons. But my kids love them. And if I squelch their choices in reading now, what will keep them wanting to read in the future? I can surely point them to new reading adventures, especially at this age where they don’t know what is available to them. But they have the right to decide for themselves as well. And that goes for choosing library books too.

So, Brown Bear, Red Bird, Yellow Duck, Blue Horse, Green Frog, Purple Cat, White Dog, Black Sheep, Goldfish, Teacher and Children…I will see you all again tonight. Because my child would like to read.


4 thoughts on “How Freedom to Read Applies to Children

  1. Haha, good point. The only reason I ever say to my young kids, “I don’t want to read that “is because the book is long and I’m too darn tired!!

    Censorship as applies to banned books is for me the idea that “someone else” is dictating what my child can or can’t read. That’s what I don’t like because often those people have ideas about controversial subjects that I just don’t share, and too often those ideas are just ridiculous. I don’t think anyone else should make those decisions for a parent, and once a child is of an appropriate age they shouldn’t make the decision for the child either. I pay attention to what my son reads, and I will tell him that I don’t think he’s mature enough to read certain things because he won’t understand them or they’re just not suited for him. On the one hand I suppose that I am censoring him, but I think of it more as guiding him. That’s what parenting is, holding your child’s hand until they’re ready for you to let go, not until you’re ready because let’s face it, as parents we’re never ready. Deciding when that time comes is the hard part. So do I think that banning books is an unnecessary evil? Yes. Do I still censor what my child reads? To a certain extent, yes. But the difference is that I’m the one making the decision, not someone else.

  2. Angie, when I’m too tired and the book is long is when I skip pages. Eek! Of course, to accomplish that, we’d need to read an actual story and not just books that label tractors. Sorry to children’s book authors out there, we DO read whole books. Just maybe not at bedtime :).

    Before a certain age I do think parents need to have discretion, so I suppose that could be going against what I just wrote. But I do believe in age appropriateness–like if your 8 year old wants to red Go Ask Alice b/c she thinks Alice is Alice in Wonderland…probably not the best choice and some guidance is needed. But if my 16 year old wants to read it, well, then I think I have to let her (when I have a 16 year old that is).

    And you’re right, the bottom line is that there shouldn’t be someone else out there dictating what’s right for your family just because they feel it isn’t right for theirs.

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