Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Is This The Beginning Of A Children's Book Ban?



Last night was World Book Night which is a celebration of reading and books. Thousands of 'givers' are distributing books throughout their communities and workplaces to encourage others to enjoy the pleasures of reading.

This year World Book Night was celebrated in the UK, Ireland, Germany and the USA.

Reading is one of the great pleasures in my life and the new technologies, such as Kindles and iPads, enhance the joy of having a selection of books at my fingertips.

My reading was encouraged from a young age. Books were expensive but libraries were prepared to lend children's books on a parent's library card. A child wasn't though responsible enough to have their own card and few libraries would issue books to minors unaccompanied by a parent with a current card. I haunted my local library so much that eventually, when I was about eleven or so, my father agreed with the librarians that I could have two books a week as long as I produced his card. I recall that day fondly because I thought I had finally been admitted into the adult world even though my choices were limited to the children's section.

I can't remember all the authors involved, but Enid Blyton featured as 'fab' for a while and I blame my childhood sleep walking on the superb tales of the Brothers Grimm. Gripping stories in faraway lands with intriguing cultures created another world to a child.

Nowadays children aren't free to read books which have been enjoyed by generations. All that's needed to ban a book is one complaint from a parent and it's removed from the shelves.  A survey of 98 library authorities took in more than 300 complaints from the last five years about 'unsuitable, inappropriate or offensive' works. Half of the complaints were about children's books.  Even some of Roald Dahl's works have been removed from the children's section or removed altogether because they 'offend'.

Why are libraries acting in this way?  I'm sure anyone could find at least one word which they may find offensive in any book. One child's meat is another child's poison and to deny every child the opportunity to borrow a book because of one parent's opinion, is ridiculous.

Is this the beginning of a children's book ban?  If so, it needs to be nipped in the bud and librarians instructed to tell the adult their complaint has been noted but until a much greater number of complaints are formally registered no action will be taken. If a parent finds one of their child's books offensive then they are quite within their rights to tell the librarian, but their actions should not deny other children the right to read it.

19 comments:

scribblercraig said...

I have to be quite honest, if I knew a book was being banned from a library I would head out and buy a few copies - just in case it took root elsewhere (and while I too love my Kindle and iPad I don't trust them as they can remove books remotely).

pa_broon74 said...

I usually have two or three books on the go at any given time, one in the car, one in the office and one at home. I remember sitting in the library as a kid in one of those ridiculously daft plastic moulded chairs that were too small even for kids thumbing through world war two books.

The library card thing must be regional because I remember having one when I was as young as 8.

As to the banning or removal of books due to one complaint, I can't agree with that, Roald Dahls stuff can be sinister but kids love that stuff, having as I do contact with young people, I see parents micromanaging every facet of their sprog's existance and its not healthy at all, for their sprog and the ramifications it has for other kids who are victim to Secondary Child Nimbyism.

I positively inhaled books by Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley & Wilbur Smith. Moved on to Len Deighton and the Quiller books by Adam Hall. From there into Stephen King, James Herbert and Dean Koontz and from there, onto Pete McCarthy (Who's Road to McCarthy is an all-time favourite,) Bill Bryson & PJ O'Rourke. I'll read anything now and swear down two things; 1) Books beat kindles and 2) Books beat DVD's.

I Loved Cloud Atlas by David Mitchel but confess I didn't really get The Wind up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, it was a good read but I fear I'm not that sophisticated.

Banning books and closing libraries we do at our peril. I would say, if we are being tradtional and accepting religion plays a part in shaping things like morality and values in humanity, then I'd also posit the notion that books (of all kinds) are equally as powerful and heck of a lot less judgemental. I'd much rather my kids sat with a decent book for an hour than went to some churches.

Elby the Beserk said...

I can still remember the beechwood gate and brass hinges that allowed entry into the public library we used as a child. Can't recall whether I had a card, but I do know that I borrowed as many books as I could from it. A bookworm by nature, too poor now to buy books, I live by our local library and probably reserve a book a week.

I don't know what has happened to the UK. The culture of "always ready to be offended" seems now to be built-in; Labour spiced it up some, with their obsession with "equality" and "fairness" so that now we have armies of Lefties ready and primed to be offended, often on behalf of parties who are NOT themselves offended by whatever.

FUBAR, as our American friends say. I see no resolution to this - least of all in the "power to the people" Coalition. T

Woodsy42 said...

Books are probably my only life-long addiction. I still get through 2 or 3 a week as I did in my teens.
The library is in town, the mobile infrequnt, so I tend to use the Kindle - loads of free stuff - and local car boot sales often with stalls selling boxes of tidy paperbacks at 2, 3 or 4 to the pound. I buy carrier bags full. Basically I will read almost anything with a good well written story, I gave up on specific genres years ago.
I'm sure I qualified for my own library card on joining secondary school.

tedioustantrums said...

My experience of reading is the same as everyone elses. Library, comics, newspapers a bit later but books, books and more books of all sorts most of my life. I still enjoy going into book shops and flicking through books.

I Kindle and I Ipad, not the same as a book. They have a long way to go to have the same value as a printed book.

Banning books is not acceptable. Self censorship or age related support to children with reading matter is the only option.

Banning books is akin to burning them which I would suggest is the sign of a sick society.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

We don't need libraries to ban books. Publishers are experts in that black art.

JRB said...

I despair - Whatever Next ?

Will the said books that have caused such ‘offense’ be confiscated from each and every household, library or bookstore?
Will they be taken out and publically burned in front of the reading populus?
Will it become a capital offence to read, mention or discuss any banned title?

Hold on a second……….

Didn’t our parents’ generation fight a world war against a regime that thought the banning of books which did not correspond with their ideology was socially acceptable?

subrosa said...

Craig, I understand your concerns with iPads etc., but they do save carrying several books around.

Brian said...

Rosie,
Call my a cynic but I doubt if a reciprocal zero-tolerance policy applies to books favoured by fundamentalist religionists of all flavours scared that their children might think for themselves or experience an alternative point of view and the politically correct. The same people who ban books want to restrict the internet so that only material they approve of can be viewed. By doing that they hope to prevent people thinking differently to the orthodox - it's the same rationale as Newspeak in 1984.

Joe Public said...

I too fondly remember frequenting our public library as a child.

And getting 1d docked from my pocket money when one book was returned 'late'.

It would nice if some public servants had the b@lls to opine that "No" a particular publication wasn't "offensive to the majority". However, I can hardly blame them when their job & pension is on the line simply for, say, stating that the name of Douglas Bader's dog is a fact.

"One child's meat is another child's poison....." if it's not halal, eh?

Dramfineday said...

If we let them Rosie, they'll be burning them next

subrosa said...

Pa-broon, I think we had to be 14 before we got our own cards but I'd have to check that out. You're obviously younger than me. :)

Only recently, if I wasn't enjoying a book, I managed to just say 'enough' and stop reading it. Somehow I felt it disrespectful to the author if I didn't finish it.

Good choices. I enjoyed David Mitchell's book too.

subrosa said...

I don't buy books either Elby but I dig around charity shops etc. Mind you, some charity shops are getting expensive. Boot sales are good for books.

What annoyed me about the article is the ease with which the books were removed.

subrosa said...

That's the benefit of Kindle and iPad Woodsy, when a library isn't always accessible.

Our local library is getting a revamp. Must be too much money in council coffers.

subrosa said...

Good points TT. There should be a long drawn out 'process' before a book is banned. Councils are good at long processes.

subrosa said...

They did JRB yet it seems many have either forgotten the sacrifices made or shunned them.

subrosa said...

Bang on Brian and as I said earlier it's the ease by which it's all happening.

subrosa said...

Who judges if a book is suitable for a child Joe? In my day it was the parent but they never made any fuss about it because they were sensible enough to know that another parent may have different views.

subrosa said...

That could well be Dram. Frightening thought isn't it.

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