Monday, February 23, 2009

Freedom To Read Week

Do you ban books without even knowing it? An article written by a children’s librarian and published in the most recent issue of Children’s Book News (the newsletter of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre) urges us to be aware of our own tendencies towards “banning” books.

Example: I am on the organizing committee of an annual writers' festival. In a recent discussion about which writers to invite, the name of a successful Canadian author was suggested. She writes contemporary fiction aimed at a female market. “Romance” writing? Perhaps, but not exclusively. “Chick-Lit”? No, not that genre, either. But as a few of us tried to describe this author’s work, one of the committee members rebuffed our efforts with the statement: “I don’t read that kind of thing.” The message was clear: “that kind of thing” is inferior. I disagree: I’ve spent some great reading hours with the work of this award-winning author and I would highly recommend her books. (And after our March 4th launch, I'll tell you who she is!)

We all have our tastes and preferences; we all have our favourite authors and genres. What works for me may not appeal to you at all – but suggesting that someone else’s tastes are inferior is the start of a slippery slope towards censorship, especially for those in a position of power: a teacher or parent, perhaps. Sampling the menu of reading experiences means developing a taste for the literature that nurtures us, and that goes for children as well as for adults. There’s nothing wrong with our likes and dislikes, and certainly nothing wrong with discussing and defending them. But let’s be open and tolerant too. Instead of judging, let’s celebrate the fact that everyone has the freedom to read.

1 comment:

  1. To me telling people what they can or cannot read is like telling them what foods they can or cannot consume. How can one individual determine what another would enjoy? Books are a very personal sensory experience. Much like food...and to me both are necessary for human existence.