Reading Censorship

Building off of my last post I wanted to talk about little bit about my thoughts on censoring children’s reading material. First off I will start off by saying that one thing I really appreciate about my parents was the fact that they never tried to censor my books, movies, or music growing up.

I could consume any media I chose. My Mom even got some backlash about this during the great Harry Potter controversy. Did I sometimes view or read things inappropriate for my age? Absolutely. But it also helped me build my internal compass for guiding myself in my explorations. When something was too much for me I put it down or turned it off. It did me no lasting harm.

Books can be so meaningful to some many people in so many different ways. Censorship of reading material does a disservice to the reader. Assuming a topic is too hard or horrible doesn’t always line up with a child’s real life experiences. Books can help you cope with grief and loss, give you friends when you have none, help you feel less lonely, show you people who have the same problems as you, and help you in so many ways it isn’t even possible to list. They can help you learn someone else’s point of view, help you cope, help you become a better person. Books are so much more than the sum total of their insides, because each person experiences them in a completely different way. By dismissing books from your child’s life you many make them miss out on the book that helps them realize their sexuality is not bad, that their fill in the blank disorder (anxiety, depression, whatever) is real, or any number of other situations.

I can say I obviously wouldn’t let me three year old near porn. But if in the future she chooses a book I know she won’t like, I most likely won’t stop her reading it. I won’t be forcing her to read anything in particular, nor denying her books. I don’t personally believe much in censorship.

I do think I will probably read most books she reads, just because I think it would help further discussion. But I cannot in good conscience ever limit her reading choices. I would also consider things like magazines, comic books, and graphic novels to be perfectly good reading material. Classic literature is all well and good, but if your child won’t read anything but comics for a few years it won’t hurt anything in the long run. It might be far worse to prohibit a child reading less traditional materials, since it could kill a love for reading long before you show them it is good to branch out sometimes.

I will probably be a bit more proactive with movies than books or music. Some movies can be very gore filled, sexual in ways that reflect badly on normal relationships, and just plain not appropriate for certain ages. Movies have gotten a lot more violent and gross than they were when I was a child.

We haven’t had cable in almost a decade so we don’t have to worry so much about TV. At least for now all we have for viewing beside DVDs is Netflix. Someday we might look into Hulu or something else too, to help with homeschooling. For now we are quite satisfied with the amount of educational programming Netflix offers.

Another area that might need a little more proactive parenting is video games. I would not give my child free rein over games any more than movies, for much the same reasons. Reading about something gross isn’t nearly as traumatic as viewing it, which is why I would be far more forgiving of book content. Each child will need a different level of help figuring out their limits, but nothing should be shelved automatically because of a fad or other ridiculous reasons.

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