Thursday, August 25, 2011

In Praise of Books

Just read about this -http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/kurt-vonnegut-sarah-ockler-books-removed-from-missouri-high-school-library_b35249?clickid=0004ab59852eb7e20a8a8e0c8e870739. It's nothing new of course. We're all aware of censorship in schools. I'm so glad I never encountered that while growing up. Even with my strict, evangelical Christian upbringing I got very lucky on a couple of counts. 

First, from the age of 10 to 13 I lived two houses over from the library. I practically lived there. It was like heaven to me. I took it all in. I read every sort of book. I explored all the sections from childrens to teen to adult.I got my sex education there. Which is a good thing considering my parents weren't about to go there except to say it's a sin unless you're married. And our schools at that time had no sex ed either.

I read classics, modern fiction, romance (never really did care for the Harlequin types though), mystery, farce, self help, etc. It seemed back then the teen section had a lot of books that revolved around drugs (in an after school TV special kind of way) as well as the occult. I ate that stuff up. Seems I was drawn to kids playing with their darker sides but always getting out before they were consumed by it. My parents should be happy. I swear that stuff scared me away from drugs.

But then again if they had had any real idea what all I was reading they would have taken my library card away from me. Pretty sure about that! I read some super hot sexy stuff, some pretty gruesome stuff and violent stuff on top of the previously mentioned no-no topics. As it was, at one point they had to limit the amount of my reading because I was not getting my school work done because of  my book addiction. That cracks me up thinking about it.

Second, even though I went to public schools I got an awesome education. Because I was of above average intelligence I was put into their accelerated program. While the regular students suffered through bland reading books, we read REAL books. Lots of them. Challenging ones. And we delved deep into them. Even though I didn't always love the book assignments, I always felt grateful to not be reading the crap the other kids were stuck with. It pains me to see how the system has let kids down by not offering them the riches of literature; instead feeding them what amounts to junk food. I just see no reason why average kids couldn't have been reading real books too.

And frankly, I don't think our schools would now be banning great literature if the adults running things had been exposed to it themselves from the beginning. As one quote says (paraphrased) "once your mind has been stretched by new ideas it cannot shrink back to it's original form". We hold back mankind with censorship. While raising my three kids I was always thrilled to see them reading real books. And picking out whatever they wanted. I knew their horizons would be broadened and their lives would be enriched.

I feel sorry for the people who are so afraid of fantasy, of other types of living, of other ways of thinking that they need to hide it from everyone. Seems like it would be like living in a prison.

3 comments:

  1. I used to read all sorts of books when I was a tween and a teen too!! Some were actually way too hard-core for that age lol But I would pick up something I liked the title of, or I just liked the cover, or maybe I liked the short description... Usually, there was no clue as to what might really be inside so I could even read those in front of my parents - they wouldn't know until they read it themselves lol Ah good memories! lol

    P.S. Your approach to thanking people is the best! It's like with gift giving, so often people give what they themselves would like without realizing they need to imagine what the receiver would actually like to get. It's especially sad since it's always done with the best of intentions and with the most of consideration, but it just ends up being wrong.

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  2. I always felt thankful that my schools were very liberal in the books they assigned. We were always lucky enough to experience a wide range of books that exposed me to things that was foreign and even uncomfortable! Thanks for sharing this.

    Belly B :)

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  3. We are so on the same page here (ha). I used to hang out at the library all the time, and found out at a young age that the New York Public Library capped the maximum number of books out at once at thirty. My old librarian is still a friend and for nostalgia I love visiting my two local libraries when I'm back in NY. Books rock.

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