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.