It's Banned Books Week in the United States, and I've been reading blog post after blog post about how pointless, stupid, and oh yeah- how ANTI-AMERICAN it is. You know, if you count the first amendment.
But that's not what this post is about.
When KidBrotherSam and I were growing up, Mom kept tight control over what we watched on television. If it was violent, it was out. If it showed that being disrespectful to parents is okay, it was out. Those are the two main things I remember her censoring for- and I *totally* agree on those choices, but I'm sure there were more. (She also seriously limited how much TV we watched. Something like 3 hours total per week, and only on the weekend.)
Sam and I have always been voracious readers. I don't think it's because we didn't watch TV; I think it's because our parents were readers. What my mother never censored was our reading material. In hindsight, I remember Mom reading some of the stuff we read, and as an adult I can recognize that if Mom thought a book might have objectionable content, she would read it, too. (She never let on that was *why* she was reading our books. And we never questioned it.) Afterward, we would talk about it.
It wasn't a "This isn't appropriate for a child your age" conversation; she was always taking the temperature of how I had interpreted the objectionable content in books, somehow without obviously leading the discussions. I'm sure I missed a lot of the objectionable material, but the stuff that I picked up on, we talked about.
I have to say, I'm seriously impressed with how Mom parented us. When I was 14 years old, I was reading the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series (before they got all super-smutty), and one of the books centered around snuff films. My Mom, in her SuperMom cape, instead of ripping the book out of my hands and handing me something (perhaps) more age-appropriate, had a calm discussion with me about snuff films.
Stop a moment and think about that last sentence. How many parents could have a calm discussion with their teenage daughter about snuff films? Mom was pretty unflappable as a parent. I don't even remember her making crazy eyes, quickly changing the subject, or having an uncomfortable nervous laugh, ever.
Enough bragging on my mom. The point is, instead of censoring what we read, she made sure that she was informed about what we were reading. She read it herself. She talked to us. (Novel idea, that last one.)
It wasn't until I was in college where Mom actually expressed any negative opinions about *what* I was reading. My senior seminar class was on Virginia Woolf and Toni Morrison. In case you're curious, filicide is where Mom draws the line. Not only did Mom not read any of the Morrison books, she also *did not* want to discuss any of it.
She never said, "Don't read it" or "Don't take the class", she basically said, "I just *can't* talk about this with you." I don't blame her; it was a seriously dark semester. By then, I was a GrownUp (sort of), and my choices in reading material were my own.
Books aren't dangerous. Sure, they put ideas in people's heads. But if you stay ahead of the curve, you can probably keep your kids from inciting a revolution with a few calm conversations.