Friday, September 29, 2017

Banned Books & Censorship

For Banned Books week, I went to a reading held at the Rock Island Library. I got there in time to hear excerpts from Harry Potter, Judy Blume, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (in Middle English), and for the end with an essay by Harlan Ellison. It was another great evening honoring the right to read without limitations.

It wasn’t until the next morning that it occurred to me how important the role of censorship played in getting my sons to start reading in earnest on their own.

It started with Gary Paulsen’s Winterdance. I’d heard about it from my mother-in-law. I read it, loved it, and wanted my kids, my teenaged boys, to experience what I thought were the funniest parts. It was an adult book, so I figured I’d just read to them those parts and get out before they got too bored. I called them into the youngest’s bedroom, sat on the floor, and read out loud the part where Paulsen describes the first time he had his sled dogs out for a training run. He ends up being drug behind the makeshift rig so fast that the matches in his back pocket ignite. (I had a hard time not laughing.) On a night-time training run, the sled team ran into a skunk. Let’s say you don’t try to pull a skunk out of a dog’s mouth by the tail. (Still funny.) I read those pages out loud to them and left it at that. I was surprised when they each had to read the whole book.

Since that went well, I tried reading an entire book out loud—Jurassic Park. I was worried about some scenes being too graphicly scary, and wanted to avoid the cannibals all together, so I left them out of my reading. They read those edited parts for themselves. Censoring seemed like waving a red cape at a bull.

My husband did a similar thing with Catch-22. After he was done, the boys took turns reading the whole book.

In my opinion, for my family at least, censorship became a great tool to get reluctant readers interested enough to find out what they were missing by, you know, reading. 

My grown sons still read, each to his own tastes, and they've done well by it. They're interesting people to talk to.

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