I’m here today to talk about something that’s very important to me. If you’re a blogger or an avid blog reader, you may have seen many of these posts this week. This week is Banned Books Week, a week celebrating the right to read.
As a teen, a reader, and a person, I can’t stand the thought of anybody trying to ban books from me. Books are how I learn about the world. I’m fourteen, and while that may just seem like a number to you, it means that a lot of people try to protect me from the world and people don’t necessarily believe in how serious I am.
One of the many problems with banning books is that without books, you aren’t exposed. Being exposed is not the same thing as being vulnerable. It makes me angry when people try to “shelter” teens from the things in books. Do you not realize that we’re exposed at school every day? That we don’t have drinkers, pregnant teens, and stoners in our classes? That we don’t know what sex means or how drugs can impact you? It may be considered more “adult” knowledge but we have the right to know. We already don’t know enough about the world at the moment. Let us know.
An argument that I always use when people try to say that young adult is “inappropriate” or that I shouldn’t be reading a book because of content is that I’m curious. Wouldn’t you rather me read about something than go out and do it? Reading about a teen whose pregnant and understanding deeply how it affects her life scares me. Being exposed to these things through book instead of in life doesn’t make me vulnerable; it protects me. I take pride in the knowledge that I’m aware of the consequences that my actions can easily have and through reading, I understand those. Reading about a girl similar to me who wrecks her life through a reckless decision makes me aware of the impact of my actions. Banning this from teens is morally wrong. Lack of knowledge wrecks lives, not too much knowledge (at least for me).
When is censorship ever a good idea? Plus, it’s not a permanent solution; it’s temporary. Those adults worrying about how much their sons and daughters should know are seemingly oblivious to the fact that in a few years, we’ll be adults. We’ll be living in this world considered too dangerous to know about.
I used to sneak books from my older sister and from my family. I read The Lovely Bones and Go Ask Alice and Speak at shockingly young ages. Many parents would probably be horrified by my age. The thing is that I was thirsty for knowledge and eager to know about the world. I don’t consider myself any less innocent or worse off because of it. I have the awareness to understand when a book is too inappropriate for me and when I should read it. I know that there are some things that I don’t want to know about yet and that yes, ignorance can be bliss. I’m not saying that not knowing should be condemned. I’m saying that teens should be able to have the choice what knowledge that they have and what experiences they can read about. Chances are that they’re going to be exposed to those experiences soon enough anyways.
While some teenagers that I know make extremely reckless and life-altering decisions, I’m confident in my beliefs and morals. I think that it’s because I’ve been allowed to know the pros and cons of all these things through reading about people like me going through the same dilemmas. When confronted with drinks, drugs, or sex, I have the uttermost confidence in myself that I will make the right choice because I’ve read about it.
Many of my favorite books are books about scary choices and life-changing experiences. Many of my favorite books are banned books. I shudder to think about which books I never would have been able to read and what kind of person I would be if I hadn’t read those books. If I hadn’t understood the character with every fiber of my soul and completely connected. If I hadn’t gone through those experiences, if only in my head. I wouldn’t be who I am now, that’s for sure.
Last year, I read Fahrenheit 451 in my English class and was completely horrified. The kids in my class watched my reaction through the book burning scenes and I’m sure that I must have given them a good show. I thirst for knowledge; I want to know about the world, whether it’s bad or good. Reading a fluffy book won’t make me a better person. Reading books that expose me to the world -make me think- are the books that I remember and the books that change me for the better. Who are these people to take these rights away from us? Who are these people to say what teens can and cannot handle? Ignorance is the cause of many problems. Imagine how much better society would be if everybody read about these dangers without going out and participating in them first. That’s what books have done for me. They’ve exposed me to the world without making me vulnerable.
Banning a book has no benefits. What use is an ignorant world? Teens deserve to have the right to read and have access to knowledge. Who are these people to decide that a teen can or can’t handle the content of a book? What content is truly bad anyways that teens aren’t already exposed to in their everyday lives? What kind of choices would at-risk teens have made if they knew how their lives could change, through books? The world is a scary place. We know that. But it doesn’t have to be ignorant.
Teens are the next generation. By knowing about these things, we can plan ahead and gain more perspective about how these things can easily shape our lives. It’s amazing to me – in an awful way – how people can honestly believe that censorship is a good idea. It baffles me completely. I could go on about this topic for hours and take up pages, but I’m trying to slim down my posts a tad and I also just don’t want to completely all out rant about it. Censorship is wrong; reading about the good AND the bad things have made me a better person. I just…I don’t understand how somebody could think that taking this knowledge away from teenagers would be a good idea.
Celebrate Banned Books Week!