You might not like it, but don’t ban or burn it.


| Banned Book Week just finished; it was September 30 – October 6 this year. |

It takes a lot for me to tell you not to burn something, because I love fires. I come from a farm family filled with many glorious stories of burning ditches gone wrong. Despite my love of a good blaze, I don’t encourage book burning, or its cousin, book banning.

I loathe the idea of books being banned.

There are some books that I don’t care for. Some I’m indifferent to. Some I think are trash. Some books make me weep for the tree killed to print them. Some seem benign but are extremely harmful. Some I think could be dangerous. Some I think can change the world in good and bad ways, depending upon the reader.

The problem is that books are ideas. They are the personal philosophies of the author, put down on paper and sent through time to random people with unpredictable receptions. Ideas and philosophies affect each reader in unpredictable ways. Banning books seems to solve the problem: we can’t predict the reaction you’ll have to reading this, so we’ll stop you from reading it. But really, it’s more like saying we’ll outlaw cars to prevent car accidents.

A Book Recipe

Books are made up of three ingredients:

  • The author’s ideas
  • The transcendence or grip of time
  • The reader’s interpretation

When I read a book and I find I disagree with the author, it’s sorta like this:

The reader's flowchart.

In the end, a book will cause you to do one of two things:

  • Nothing
  • Something

Both have a place. One is a shout-out to being on course, and the other is a kick in the pants to find a course. One reinforces, one breaks the foundations. This is scary for parents whose kids are reading books they don’t approve of, understandably so.

The Parent Book Club

I know parents are busy. It’s a shame, though. There is a great teachable moment in discussing a book with kids, especially one that goes against what you believe. It is an opportunity to  reinforce or solidify your own beliefs to yourself, and to your child, as you discuss it. You get a chance to give your child the tools and language and concepts to use when they find themselves reading something that you don’t know they’re reading (which will happen someday).

When you tell a kid “no”, what do they do? Pretty much they want to do exactly what you told them not to, or they obey and fear the message instead of having a context to put it in. And that would be your context.

Should you ban a book, or allow it?

It disappoints me when parents or groups pursue banning a book, but I understand their fear. If all else, I would rather see them work to have their children offered an alternative book rather than ban the book entirely.

Do you want to strengthen your child’s foundation? Don’t prevent them from reading something in conflict with it. How do you strengthen a muscle? You oppose it with weights. And, to prevent damage, you do it within exercise guidelines. Reading does the same for the mind, and for kids and teens, parents have the opportunity to guide that opposition. Challenging books challenge, and strength comes from that.

Banning books does not do this.

Once I start a process that removes books I don’t agree with, what’s to stop others from doing the same for books I believe to be very worthwhile? It goes both ways. I don’t like to think that others will someday be able to censor me and my writing.

The image for this post, the one of books in chains, is of my own fiction books that are on the banned list. I treasured those stories growing up. I can’t think of a reason I ought not have read them. Some are extremely dear to me. I also treasured reading books willy nilly and having the faith in my Faith. I would be weaker if I’d avoided the books I was told I shouldn’t have read.

And The Bridge To Terabithia? That’s just good readin’, folks. Don’t ban that.

At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, this is about the only video that comes to mind featuring book burning.