Monday, 13 April 2015

Book Banning

In our family we love reading. We read everything and anything - books, newspapers, magazines, cereal boxes and even, when we forget to bring something into the bathroom with us, shampoo bottles. By the way, I am amazed that these actually provide instructions. Seriously? If you are capable of reading the instructions on a shampoo bottle then, chances are, you already know how the whole thing works. But I really enjoy the back of the Old Spice shampoos and body washes - they are weird and entertaining.

Our guys are all big readers and nothing does my heart prouder than seeing them all sprawled around the living room reading books. We have always read to our kids and we still do - even though they can and do read a lot on their own. It apparently is important to read to your kids even after they can read to encourage them (even  tweens and teens)  to continue with reading through life.  That could be total anxious parent crap and not even true but, more importantly, it's fun. It's a great way to bond, share experiences  and for me to reread books I loved as a kid.

I often pick books I can't convince them to try on their own. And the books I insist on reading are not necessarily "appropriate"  for their age or this time - which is what makes reading so fun. The stuff in these books is almost lost information in one way or another. And some of it is terribly politically incorrect. Currently I am reading:

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson to the 7 year old.

"This is the one about getting drunk on rum and killing people with swords, right?"



Lost in the Barrens - Farley Mowat  to the 9 year old. Two 14 year olds left on their own mess up and have to survive in the high north with only a rifle and an axe. Killing stuff, raiding Viking graves, doing stupid things with serious consequences. Super fun.



Watership Down - Richard Adams to the 12 year old. It's about talking bunnies, who fight and swear and kill. He loves it. Shh, don't tell anyone.


Another bunch of books from my youth I have introduced my kids to are the Tintin comic books. Harmless fun, right? Well... they were written by a Belgian guy in the '40s - let's just say he wasn't enlightened about other races and people. But apparently you can't get some of them out of the library because of this backward thinking. I think that's bullshit. Kids need to be able to handle this stuff and can, if given the right guidance by their parent - another reason for me to read these books to them and moderate the discussion afterwards.

Oho, you may say - easy for you Mr. White Middle Class guy - your people/race/gender are not being unfairly represented.

Oh no?

A passage I recently read in Watership Down went something along the lines of "A rabbit can no more resist lettuce than an Irishman can resist an invitation to fight." Racist bastard. I really wanted to punch the guy in the head. You know, if he hadn't been dead for 20 years or so. And because people of Irish decent don't have bad tempers. Ahem.*

But it wasn't going to ruin an otherwise great book for me and my son. I laughed and commented to the effect that it was racist garbage and we moved on. You can't protect your kids from this stuff by not dealing with it. You have to give them the tools to handle it when they encounter it.

[*Interesting - I figured WD was written in the 40s and the anti-Irish nonsense was a product of the typical English racism of the time and could be excused that way but hold on - it was written in 1972 and the bastard is still alive (94). I just might have to look him up next time I get to the UK and test his theory. My point still stands - it was from a different time and POV and I can challenge that comment but still enjoy the book and think it worthwhile. This enforced cultural amnesia/ willful blindness helps no one. Our kids need to know how people of different times and places thought (and sadly even still think) about things so they are forearmed.]

Given the stuff they are exposed to on social media, in video games and online (no matter what you do), it makes me laugh that they are pulling Tintin books from the library. Yeah, a comic book written in the 40s is the biggest concern we should have. And a library is supposed to be where all information is kept no matter how obnoxious. The bigger issue to me is most kids don't even read at all and so cannot exercise their minds with dealing with information not pre-digested and approved by the gate-keepers. Maybe this idea that books have to be good for you and have had all bad stuff removed from them is why they seem to terribly lame and uninteresting to many boys.

That said, you don't have to agree with me - you wanna fight about it?