Since I didn’t become a parent until I was 31, I had plenty of time to make a mental list of what I would and wouldn’t do when I had children.
That list was really long by the time my son was born.
He’s now 15, and I’m pretty sure I’ve violated almost everything on that list with the exception of one thing.
I don’t censor what my children read. I never have and I never will.
There’s a reason why I’m so adamant about sticking to that one thing on my list.
In doing that, they let me know they believed in me.
They believed I needed to understand the perspective of others in order to develop my own opinions.
They believed I should know about life’s realities in order to make the best decisions about my own life.
And they believed that learning more about the world could only make me more prepared to take it on.
At a time when I observed my friends’ parents often being either over protective or too permissive, my parents chose to promote knowledge over dogma. For that, I will be forever grateful.
I was well into adulthood but had not yet entered parenthood when I finally recognized their influence. Ironically, that lesson came in a discussion about television, which is something my parents actually limited (primarily because they wanted to promote reading.)
I was in a continuing education workshop when I overheard two colleagues discussing their children. One woman was complaining that she had prohibited her daughter from watching Beverly Hills 90210 only to discover that she was watching it anyway. Her daughter had a friend who was recording episodes and letting her watch them at her house after school.
I wasn’t a participant in the discussion. I simply overheard it, but it obviously stuck with me. That’s because I was screaming inside, ”Unless your child’s life or health are in danger, don’t prohibit him/her from doing something. Adolescents will always push limits. It’s what they are supposed to do as they learn how to become adults. Instead of prohibiting something, join them.”
My children will be the first to tell you that I never censor what they read. They will also tell you that I am always the first one to join them.
Some of our best discussions and revelations often come from talking about what characters in books are doing.
It’s not personal. It’s simply fiction. And when it’s simply fiction, you can talk about anything.
When the book documents actual historic events, the discussion is even richer.
I am writing this during Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of the freedom to read. Hundreds of libraries and bookstores along with thousands of individuals are drawing attention to the problem of censorship
I’ve been trying to do my part in my personal blog, and now, I’m sharing the message here: please go read a banned or challenged book.
If you are afraid to do that, at least check out a list of books that have been banned or challenged. You might be surprised at the ones you’ve already read and the ones that you haven’t.
I know the ones I haven’t yet read are going at the top of a new mental list: Books I Need to Read.
That list is really long, but I hope it’s much shorter next year at this time. I hope yours is too.