As readers our freedom to read is without question important to us. But how do authors view banning and censorship?! YA author Carrie Ryan shares her thoughts with this important piece that really hits home the reason why we need to fight against the banning and removal of books from our schools and libraries for ourselves and most importantly for our children...
Won't someone please think of the children?
I'm so proud and pleased to live in a world where young girls are never sexually abused. Where women in high school or middle school aren't raped. Where teen boys never contemplate suicide (or, heaven forfend, actually attempt and accomplish it). I'm blessed to live in a world where there's no bullying, no cyberbullying, no eating disorders or emotional abuse. Where girls don't stick fingers down their throats and slide knives or blades over their skin intentionally. Where teachers don't sleep with students, where fathers don't sleep with daughters, where no one under consenting age has sex, thinks about sex, comes close to having sex, gets pregnant, gets a disease, has an abortion or has a child when they're still in their tweens. How lovely that all girls and boys are virgins throughout middle and high school. That nary a drop of alcohol or a whiff of drugs passes their lips, their noses, their veins.
Surely each child at every school is well loved, well nourished, well cared for. Well clothed and well mannered with bright futures ahead that don't involve peer pressure and binge drinking and drugs and gangs.
Clearly none of those terrible things ever happens in the lives of REAL teens. So why would we ever need books about such horrid and odious happenings? Why would we allow such texts to enter the hallowed halls of our children's schools? Or, worse, to actually be offered on a list of recommended reading? Or even more awful to contemplate, used in a classroom? Forget that such books may have won awards or received starred reviews or been included list after list. Forget that teens have written to authors in tears, in gratitude, in awe that some of those books have changed their lives. That some of those books have saved them.
We don't need those books anymore! Therefore, we don't need them in our classes, in our schools or in our libraries. Hasn't anyone ever wondered what would happen if we let our perfect, pure, untouched and untarnished teen minds read such smut? They might contemplate drugs or sex or suicide. Clearly, all it would take is one page - one paragraph - of Laurie Halse Anderson's book Wintergirls to change even the healthiest girl anorexic! No girl today would ever have such thoughts otherwise!
Won't someone please think of the children? What are we teaching them with these books?
Unless... unless we've somehow failed. Unless we missed something. Unless there are teens out there that are in trouble. That have faced obstacles that their parents don't know about. Unless there are teens out there with secrets -- secret pains and secret fears -- that they can't take to their mother or father or sister or priest or teacher. Maybe they're ashamed. Maybe they're afraid.
Maybe they need to be shown that they're not alone. That you can survive abuse. That you can overcome bullying and peer pressure. That your friends could be facing these issues. That you can find help. Or even, what happens when you don't.
Maybe we need to have more faith in teens that reading a book won't brainwash them. That maybe instead it will expand their horizons. And maybe as the adults of the world that's our job - to show them the world and be there to answer questions and support them.
I get it. I understand that its easier to keep teens in the dark. It's easier to believe that teens aren't dealing with these difficult issues. What parents want to introduce their precious child to all the bad things in this world? What father wants to explain what rape is?
But I need to make this clear, and this comes from my experience and from my friends experiences and from the teens I've talked to: this stuff happens. And it happens to teens and tweens far younger than any of us would ever want to contemplate. They deal with these issues whether we want them to or not. This is life and life can really suck and it can be messy and dangerous and sad. And hiding from it doesn't make it go away.
So whenever someone screams "Won't someone please think of the children" and then they propose banning books or removing them from the classroom or the library, I want to ask them what they think it accomplishes. Because not talking about the difficult issues in this world doesn't make them not exist. Not letting teens read about them doesn't mean teens are somehow not going to face them.
We're not protecting anyone by keeping them ignorant. And banning books or pretending this stuff doesn't happen is the height of ignorance.
Thank you to the authors who write about these difficult topics and to those who fight to keep them in schools.
Carrie Ryan is the author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Dead-Tossed Waves and the soon to be released The Dark and Hollow Places. You can learn more about Carrie and her books at www.Carrieryan.com. And you can read Carrie's original post on her blog, Carries Procrastinatory Outlet.
I want to thank Carrie Ryan for permission to share her wonderfully written article! This post really resonated with me and I can only hope that it reaches out to many other readers in the same way.