Friday, April 21, 2006

OK, so burn the book, but wait, I have not read it?

Maybe we should file this under "someone with too much time on her hands." Oh, wait, she admits that she has not read the Harry Potter books because they are too long. Maybe we should file it under, "she knows better." But it turns out that 10 year old children know that Harry Potter books are fiction, and they will not turn them into little witches and wizards. This is what a ten year old said in support of the books:

Jessica Grimes, a 10-year-old student at Duncan Creek Elementary School, faxed a letter to the school system in support of the books series.
“The books never at any time turned me into a wizard or witch,” Grimes said. “I go to church every Sunday, go to Sunday school and never at any time did I think the books are true.”
Here is a little more insight from young readers:

Dacula High School student Jana Davis, 16, said she will probably attend the public hearing with some fellow Harry Potter fans. She said she didn’t see how the books were any worse than other children’s books like Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach” or Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” series.
“Maybe parents should be parents and read the book first,” Davis said. “If they find it fun, exciting and adventurous, like thousands of people across the world, then they should allow their children to read it, in school or out.”

Find the story at the Gwinnett (GA) Daily Post for April 21, 2006. I got the tip from the Accidental Blogger, who discusses it here.

So, what do you know? You can be a Harry Potter fan and go to church. One is not exclusive of the other (unless it is some "not so welcoming" church, but we won't go into that here). Apparently young Ms. Grimes is able to distinguish between fact and fiction. I know my daughter, who is almost ten, can do so as well. She reads all sorts of fantasy books, and she knows she is not about to go out casting spells.

Ruchira Paul, the Accidental Blogger, says that the lady arguing for the removal of the books in Georgia is making a spectacle of herself. I say let her. The more people like that make a spectacle of themselves, the easier it is for those of us who believe in the freedom to read to illustrate our point and counter them. Not only has the lady not read the book, but she is suggesting C.S. Lewis' Narnia books instead. Yes, those Narnia books that have magical creatures, blood sacrifices, and magic in them. I will admit to a little secret here: I have not read the Harry Potter series (*waits for collective gasp from readers* And yes, I pretty much know the plot, that's what the Internet is for). Not because I have some belief it will turn me into a warlock or goes against my values (I am as heathen as they come). I just like different fantasy literature, but I think that anyone should be free to read them and just about any other book. While I can respect someone standing up for their values, I cannot respect someone who would pretend to take my liberties and values away because they do not fit their narrow worldview. This is what Ms. Mallory is trying to do in depriving other readers of the books. As I always tell such people, if you do not want to read the book in question, it is your right to choose so. You do not have the right to deprive the rest of us of our reading.

Now some readers may say, "but you are a librarian, of course you think the book should stay." To which I will answer, "yes, I am." But it isn't just that. I always had books in my house, and my parents really did not restrict what I read. It did not mean they were unaware and just allowed anything in the house. They did what responsible parents do, and that is they supervised their children and were involved, and they made sure to cultivate values in their children. One of those values was the freedom to explore ideas, ask questions, read, and wonder. I have to say, if you deprive your child of opportunities to read and learn, and to sometimes just read for fun and escape a while, you are not doing your job as a parent. Am I saying you should allow your children to read anything and everything? No. I would not allow my child anywhere near adult material, for instance. There is such as thing as age appropriateness, and as the saying goes, there is a time and a place. Having said that, I do give her a good amount of latitude to explore. This is not easy, but then again, no one said parenting was easy. Well, at least, it is not easy when you are trying to keep an open mind and develop a sense that ideas need to be explored, and to do so, you should read (and watch) a wide range of books and ideas. The censor's way is the easy way because it is the narrow way that requires no confrontation. It is also the way that requires no thought. Maybe Ms. Mallory, contrary to her claim that she has "put a lot of work" into what she has read and studied, has not put that much work or thought. Like many censors, she is taking the easy way out. With luck and with some people standing up for the freedom to read, the books will remain on the shelves. But those people, like Jana Davis, do have to stand up, and they take the more challenging route. Challenging not only because they have to confront a censor, but because, in reading freely, they choose to be challenged by ideas. Now, that is food for thought. I did explore this idea of the censor as a coward last year during Banned Books Week. Any interested readers can take a look here.

I would like to point this other high school who has argued against censoring books. At the end of her column she wrote,

"Book banning shouldn't be an action to eliminate certain elements in reading, such as offensive language, racism, magic and/or wizardry. Besides violating our first amendment rights, it is impossible to ban everything that some believe. Every person is unique and this includes the choice of materials they like to read.

Let's respect diversity and stop banning books. Let us make our own choices about what we want to read. As long as we like what we're reading, we'll be readers. What's the problem?"

I could go on, but in this case, I think that young student says it better than I could. Best, and keep on reading.

Correction note (4/24/06): The Accidental Blogger is a collaborative blog. The byline for the story in question is by Joe. The detail was brought to my attention by blogger Ruchira Paul in the comments section. The Gypsy Librarian apologizes for any confusion.


Ruchira Paul said...

Thanks for picking up the story - this an aspect of our culture that needs wider exposure - beyond the libraries.

Just one correction. Although my blog did begin as a solo blog and most posts bear my byline, I have been joined by a couple of co-bloggers (Joe and Anna) who pick up the slack occasionally. This particular story from Georgia was reported by Joe.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Ruchira: Thank you for stopping by. It is the type of story that needs to be picked up more: in schools, in our communities, public places, so on. Best, and keep on blogging.

P.S. The correction has been made.