My mom likes to recount this story from when I was in kindergarten. We were sitting in the public library, I had picked out a book and was reading out loud to myself. At some point, my classmate’s mother overheard me and commented that I read extremely well for my age and she wished her son could read similarly.
I’ve been reading since I can remember. My parents never chose my books for me; I got to wander the library and pick them out myself. By the age of 7 or 8, I was going to the library with my mom every Saturday and checking out a stack of ten books to read that week. As I got older, I often got in trouble for staying up much too late because I just couldn’t put down a book. The adventures were too enthralling.
John’s video this week struck me, particularly because when I was in primary school, there were very few rules about what kinds of books we could read. In high school, even less. Ten years ago, I was reading books containing domestic violence, sexual abuse, suicide, eating disorders and a whole slew of other unsavoury topics. Yet, here I stand today, without having been harmed. And some of my favourite books are the ones containing the topics that are now banned in American high schools.
Instead, I have learned to become a better writer. My creativity has been fostered and my imagination runs wild. I have explored worlds I never could have imagined, walked through mental illness with hundreds of characters, cried over fictional deaths and laughed along with the stupidity of the colourful humans that have been novelised. I think it’s important to remember that allowing children to read these kinds of novels only does one thing: open up conversation. So I say we let them read whatever they want. And when they have a bad day or go through something similar to a character they’ve read about, they’ll know they’re not alone.