Beware of the BookFew people seem to be aware that school boards and libraries throughout this country are still banning a vast number of books. Apparently I, too, am naive for until I began to look into the subject, I didn’t know the full extent of this most heinous of practices.

Check the lists and the map on this BannedBooks.org – it is mind boggling.

Then peruse this brief list from Adler & Robins Books of literary works that are banned in various locations.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. While no one would, of course, recommend that a ten-year-old child read One Hundred Years of Solitude or A Clockwork Orange, I fail to see what damage A Wrinkle in Time, To Kill A Mockingbird or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn could possibly do. I read those extraordinary books before I was ten and am quite confident that it did not result in the destruction of my moral character or the loss of sanity.

Consider the relative merits of what a child or teen absorbs (on a daily basis) through television watching. So-called “reality TV” shows proliferate like maggots on rotting meat: scene after scene of sex-saturated, casually violent, crude and useless offal.

Listen to the lyrics of much of today’s popular music: explicit sexuality, racial hatred, misogyny and more. And what, one wonders, is the level of toxicity of internet sites, chatrooms and “social networking” forums?

Sure, let the innocent young flowers stare fixedly at “Real Dirty Girls” on television as hate-rap pounds into their brains and their fingers quiver in anticipation of typing “OMG! Did u like C wut that slut ws wearing???” but protect them from the corrupting horrors of Steinbeck, Atwood, Blume and Shakespeare.

Apparently children would be irreparably harmed by exposure to artfully written words that explore the human condition. God forbid that they should read of the tragedies of racial intolerance, religious bigotry, the struggles of those living through a crushing financial depression or the soul-searing costs of war.

And what of A Wrinkle in Time with its biblical and scholarly quotes? What possible justification could there be for banning this book? It is on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 most frequently challenged books due, in part, to L’Engle daring to include Jesus Christ’s name among the names of the world’s great philosophers, scientists, artists and religious leaders.

The greatest violation of free thought is not found within the pages of a book. It is found in the misguided censorship of books. Let our children read it, read it all. Let knowledge fill and strengthen them so that they can separate life’s chaff from its grain.

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Alex Kearns

Alex Kearns

Alex writes for a variety of national and international publications. A relative newcomer to the United States, she co-founded her town's first environmental organization (The St. Marys EarthKeepers, Inc.). In turns bemused, confused, entranced, frustrated and delighted, she enjoys unravelling the eternal enigma that is the Deep South.