Seeing as it in Banned Books Week, this seemed a fitting link for today's post. I have a very personal connection to the piece as my BH and I had to talk to our granddaughters about their mother's cancer and her prognosis. It was not something we relished doing, but we knew we had to tell them the truth for as Rosoff puts it: "Give a child an unpalatable truth and she will figure out a way to process it. But "protect" her and the ghosts will whisper in her ear."
But beyond my own personal connection, there is more. Rosoff beautifully weaves into this article how shielding kids from books of certain types can also be more harmful than good. She writes: "There is a theory that children's literature should uphold the idyll of childhood, offering charming scenarios and happy endings to protect the innocent from life's harsh realities... (but) that's where literature can help – by exploring the scary stuff with insight and, on a good day, wisdom."
Some of the challenges brought up about books stem from this conceern that the content might be too intense, that kids might be frightened. Yet, when we take those challenging books with their very realistic content away from kids how can we ever expect them to safely sonfront the harsh realities of the world in which we live. Bad things happen to good people. Kids make poor choices and suffer the consequences (or sometimes make poor choices and still survive). Not all adults are nice; not all parents love and protect their children.
Donalyn Miller said in last night's #nctechat that she would rather have her daughter encoutner tough things within the safety of a book than in the school cafeteria. The safe confines of a book permit us to be with Jerry Renault in that boxing ring as Archie stacks the deck against him (THE CHOCOLATE WAR). We can watch as John and Lorraine betray their friendship with Mr. Pignati within the pages of a book (THE PIGMAN) and perhaps learn something about consequences. We can observe the slowly developing friendship and romance of two teens who support one another in ELEANOR AND PARK, watch as a teen brings gun to school to settle a score (SHOOTER), or read all about how ordinary people did extraordinary things to save their fellow human beings (NUMBER THE STARS).
Books allow us to explore the hard truths, the bloody history, the unintended consequences of thoughtless behavior in a safer environment than we will ever experience in real life. We cannot take this away from kids. We cannot protect them from the outside world. But we can give them new tools, tools they gain though reading.
Celebrate the FREADOM to read.