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Banned books

Reading is so important so why are we banning books?

Reading and access to books are two of the biggest factors indicating a child’s likelihood to succeed at school and we know that when a child succeeds in school that can impact the rest of their lives, even if only in their confidence.

We know that children with access to books and who read have faired better during the lockdowns for example. It would, of course, be a mistake to think that adding a few books to every home would instantly improve educational standards, there are of course many other factors. There is no doubt that this has been a key indicator of a child’s success during the pandemic. Living in a home with books is important.

I can’t imagine a home without books, but then I have always been fortunate to have books. My favourite day of the school year was the day they came round with the book fair leaflet. I would run excitedly home to look through and choose my book, knowing that my parents would often have to say no treats we asked for, but book requests were always met with a firm yes. Sensibly no restrictions were ever put on what I chose, if I wanted something that might have been deemed to be frivolous or too young, as long as I read it, that was ok.

I was a voracious reader at primary school. I read every night with my little bedside light, everything from Secret Seven and The Magic Faraway Tree to the classics like The Hobbit and books about Robin Hood. I just loved books.

The joy drained from reading overnight

When I started high school things changed. Suddenly I was told what to read and worse still, when! I was made to read books I didn’t enjoy and the joy drained from reading over night. This is a familiar story I know. I have seen it so many times, including with my own children.

Fortunately as soon as I was past the age of being dictated to about what I read that joy returned like water through a broken dam. I began to read for fun and discovered philosophy and psychology books during sixth form and would sprinkle in Terry Pratchett books to lighten the mood. Reading opened so many doors to knew concepts, new ideas and times I can never live through.

Since then I have loved reading. There have been times when I haven’t read as much as I would choose because of circumstance or mental overload, but I have always read.

Banning books?

This week we are once again reading about banning books in schools in the US. Long lists of books that some people in particular states deem to be inappropriate and don’t want their children subjected to have begun to appear online. Anything that challenges gender or discusses race seems to be the target.

Anyone who has ever met, or been, a teenager knows that this technique is ludicrous. I have yet to meet a teenager who can’t find a way to access anything that adults ban them from whether that is cigarettes, alcohol, friends who are a bad influence, or books. I wonder then why these short sighted parents and adults haven’t realised that they are probably going to increase the number of teens reading these books significantly now they know there is something interesting in those banned pages.

Of course from my perspective this can only be an advantage. These misguided adults have effectively signposted all the most rebellious and controversial books of our time to ensure that our young people can find them more easily! Not just young adults either, I’m sure many adults will wonder what all the fuss is about and seek them out.

Be assured that this is precisely what will happen if these books are banned.

They can ban them in schools but they will still be available through bookshops, and second hand shops and probably even online. Our bright, liberal thinking young people will now read them to find out why people wanted to deprive them of this joy. In fact it will no doubt become one of the most rebellious and status giving things to do, and we all know how much teens love to rebel. 

So please, you narrow minded, ill-educated decision makers, please do keep signposting these books which will challenge the attitudes of certain elements of society. Keep showing our children which attitudes they need to obliterate when their generation are in charge, and that time will be here before we know it. The majority of Generation Z are already more accepting and open minded than any previous generations. I’m sure these banned books are just the tools they need to stretch that awareness even further and give them an understanding either of others they are sharing the world with, or historical events that we don’t want repeating under any circumstance.

Thank you book banners, you might have just found the one thing that will raise our young people’s eyes from their screens and get them reading. Long may it continue.

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