I once read about a woman who banned her kids from reading picture books because she believed her kids were beyond them and should be reading chapter books exclusively.
I have also heard, and I am sure you have too, about parents who forbid books like Captain Underpants, books that are slightly vulgar in a make-kids-fall-off-their-chairs-laughing kind of way.
And then there are the genuine book banners, people who march self-righteously into schools and libraries and demand that books they don’t approve of be removed from the shelves, books like Harry Potter and To Kill a Mockingbird.
Yeah. Well. I am not one of those. I am no book banner. No, no.
But sometimes it is so tempting!
I am conflicted here because I believe in the free exchange of ideas, I believe in children’s freedom to pursue what interests them, to consider topics of their own choosing. I believe in reading for pleasure. If you like biographies, great, enjoy! You prefer romance? Fantastic. Mysteries? Terrific. Reading is very personal and people get all different things out of doing it. I know I don’t want anyone telling me what I can and cannot read.
But then my daughter started reading these fairy books, and they are all almost exactly the same, and they are SO boring, and there must be a thousand of them. A thousand!
And I have to expend all this energy lately just trying to keep my mouth shut. Do you know how hard that is??
It’s just that I love children’s books. I blog about them for crying out loud! I collect them, and trade them, and talk about them, and read about them. And there are so many great, fun novels out there that entertain but also get you thinking, or coincidentally teach you something about nature or history, that explore themes like coping with parents or how friends treat friends. SO MANY GOOD ONES!
And my daughter only wants to read these simple fairy books.
Part of me wants to shout, “No! No, you may not fritter away your wonderful brain on banal reading material! No more! You will read these wonderfully rich and complex works of art that explore the human experience and educate the mind and spirit! AND YOU WILL LIKE IT!”
Just imagining that is a release for me.
On the other hand, I respect my daughter’s freedom of choice. I think I spent about a year of my own life reading and rereading nothing but Archie comics. My parents didn’t say a word.
And, actually, I love to see the pleasure that she gets from these stories.
So I bite my tongue. And I keep reading and talking about all of these other books. I keep checking them out of the library. And waiting patiently (well, not that patiently).
I know that my daughter may never love the books that I love.
But she will love books. Partly because I set her free upon them.
And may she never know how hard that was for me.