As an ardent advocate of libraries, literacy, and access to information, I am uncomfortable with the strident mockery of censorship during Banned Books week.
My sons and I shared a love for Calvin and Hobbes, even before they understood all the sophisticated inside jokes; we still do.
Yet, friends of mine banned the comic; they believed it encouraged sarcasm and fostered disrespect to parents. While I disagreed, I honoured these parents by removing the comic when their children visited my home.
While censorship that creates an outright publishing ban is not acceptable in a free society, prudence and recognition for restrictive access to children is.
Parents do have the right to raise objections on what books their children are taught in class, and what is available in their school libraries.
Just like movies, video games and television program, books can not be exempted from regulatory age appropriateness. Determining age appropriateness is not about censorship. An argument can be made for maintaining a degree of innocence and naivety in children. Not a naivety about issues like racism, but protection from harmful exposure to issues a child is not yet able to handle.
Parenting controls for technology exist because there is value in discretion, prudence, and protection of innocence. An age appropriateness guideline is not denied access, but a helpful guide. Movies, video games and television programs have discretion disclaimers.
While we need to be cautious of creating extreme restrictive access, ignoring societal and parental concerns is also extreme. This is not about to ban or not to ban, but how to create access to all creative endeavours, including books, that maintains a prudent understanding of age appropriateness.
All books have tremendous power to impact readers.
It is the inherent power of words.
Books foster a dialogue between reader and writer and through them, the world. Yet, a dialogue on mature ideas requires a matured mind able to engage with those ideas. Writers, individual readers and the society at large are obligated to appreciate the responsibility that comes with the powerful impact of words.
Encased within my mind are many complex social ideas I read as a youth in those well written banned books.
While I have no wish to deny today’s youth my reading experience, banned books week provides an opportunity to discuss what civil society considers age appropriate for books released today. Books that can and will influenced.
Reading a book is always a conversation between reader and author; it is always a two-way dialogue. All artists, whether visual, tactile or literary use their art as a vehicle to engage their viewers in a dialogue on what we want to value in society.
Suggesting that only banned books had or will have the potential to influence is ludicrous.
Age appropriate designation, not mockery of parental concerns, is one way to maintain the vital conversation on societal issues that books gift to our society.