Over the weekend my mom and I popped into one of my favorite places, Bookworm a used book store in East Aurora, NY and we were greeted by a bookshelf wrapped in caution tape with a sign that read "be a rebel."
Honestly, at first glance, I thought the caution tape was part of a Halloween display, and I expected the books to be scary stories about ghost and goblins. Instead, the shelves were lined with American classics, and popular books like The Diary of Anne Frank, Of Mice and Men, A Wrinkle in Time, the Harry Potter series, The Color Purple, The Catcher in the Rye, Winnie the Pooh, My Sister's Keeper, A Light in the Attic, Tom Sawyer, Websters Dictionary, etc. All these books, BANNED from public schools, no longer a part of the English curriculum and not found in school libraries.
The Diary of Anne Frank- banned for being too explicit (she talks about exploring her body in a very small section of the book- cause, ya know, everyone recalls that part of the book. *Eye roll*)
To be perfectly frank (no pun intended) if The Diary of Anne Frank hadn't been part of the reading curriculum in school, I wouldn't have the slightest clue who she was. Hell, I probably wouldn't have the same understanding of the Holocaust that I do.
Tom Sawyer- banned for having a questionable protagonist, based on his moral character.
Of Mice and Men - banned for racism, profanity, violence and because some believe it promotes euthanasia.
Websters Dictionary- banned because it contains the definition of oral sex. (REALLY!? Like kids don't have google at their fingertips)
Winnie the Pooh- banned for having animal characters that talk and that's ungodly.
Dr. Suess The Lorax - banned for the possibility of turning children against the logging industry.
I get it, I do. I have a seven-month-old daughter and I want nothing more than to protect and shield her from the ugliness of the world for as long as I possibly can, but I also don't want her to be ill-prepared emotionally for the hurdles life could throw at her. I want her to be worldly, and knowledgeable. I want her to know what her ancestors and fellow humans had to go through for her to enjoy the life she has. I want her to be part of a better future one that doesn't repeat the mistakes of the past.
I also want her childhood to be full of imagination and creativity, I'm 99.9 percent sure that's going to involve talking animals and princesses, maybe even flying inanimate objects. I fully intend to read her Winnie the Pooh and Where the Wild Things Are (also banned for being too scary) when she is the right age.
You know what else? I also intend to take her to Disneyworld! GASP! Where there are talking animals and her imagination can run wild. I know, the horrors.
Books by their very nature, are meant to be educational, explorative and foster a creative side in each of us that otherwise would never have a chance to breathe. They can contain truths we would never otherwise have a chance to experience, secrets that would otherwise never be exposed or shared. Books are a tool used to express, teach, and empower. There can be no wrong book. No bad book. It is all subjective. Obviously, there are books that should not be read in schools (The Fifty Shades series banned for obvious reasons...congratulations overprotective parents, you got one right!) but common sense need not apply to this post...or maybe it should.
I find it ironic that often what defines a book as "bad" is so commonly the very aspect of the book that makes it worth reading, worth teaching. The truth is the world can be a very scary place and sometimes good people make bad decisions and sometimes evil goes unpunished. People use vulgarity and sexual exploration is a part of growing up. Choosing to shelter our children from potentially hurtful or depressing words printed in the pages of books is absurd. Instead, we should be teaching our children how to handle these emotions, not run away from them and hide in a corner pretending they simply do not exist.
Personally, in today's day and age when electronics rule the land and video games zombify our kids, I'd be tickled pink if my kid picks up a book and actually learns something. Whether that something is how to use their imagination or about the suffering of someone who came before them.
So, dear Anne Frank, I am sorry our society has lost sight of the importance of your words and your story. I am sorry a select few have chosen to remember your impact by a single chapter rather than the book as a whole. I'm sorry Celie that today's world cannot see the beauty in your story, to learn how to see the beauty in even the smallest of things.
You see, the world is a lot like Holden from A Catcher in the Rye; adults view childhood as idyllic and perfect while adulthood is the equivalent to death, a fatal fall over the edge of a cliff. I fear unlike Holden who realizes the shallowness of his conceptions, society will only continue to look for ways to blame the problems of today on things like books.
Seriously...Winnie the Freakin Pooh and Dr. Suess the Lorax? The Wizard of Oz?! Silly, just plan silly. SUCH HOGWASH!!!