Banned Books Week occurs every September and Betsy, an early literacy librarian, has a primer on First Amendment rights for children.
What is Banned Books Week? Are we celebrating the banning of books? Absolutely not! Banned Books Week is an annual opportunity for libraries to show support for everyone's First Amendment freedom to access information, as well as their freedom to read, question and think for themselves. But how does the First Amendment work with children? That's a little more complicated.
Technically, the First Amendment applies to children. But practically, it is up to parents to decide whether certain topics and formats are suitable for their children. When is a child ready to read about death, for example? Every child is different and only their parent can decide. Rule of thumb: children will usually not be interested in reading about something that they're not ready for. This is called self-censoring.
Do you secretly think that it is okay to ban some books? (Really, some of the content these days is a bit graphic, violent, sexual, insert adjective here...) Consider that some people believe that talking animals are "unnatural." Oops, there goes Charlotte's Web and a good percentage of children's picture books. Some consider beloved children's classics containing magical elements a no-go. Oops, there goes The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe and Harry Potter. Do you want other people to decide what your children should read? What you should read? You really don't.
Do we like every book out there? No. But as we in the library biz like to say, you never know just who might need to read that book about a dad who gets fired, or a sister dying from cancer, or a child struggling with gender identity. It's a privilege to be able to choose the best books for ourselves and our families. Hooray for the First Amendment!
While you're celebrating, check out this list of the top 100 Banned/Challenged Books, opens a new window. Some of my favorites are on it! How many have you read?