It's Banned Books Week. As long as you haven't been walking around with your head in a paper bag (and really, why would you want to do that? even I think it's weird), you already know this. Hopefully you've done something to support it. I bought a book that was challenged this year. I do it every year, and I say, "Neiner neiner neiner" when I do.
It makes the people at the bookstore look at me funny, but I'm used to that.
The thing that gets me about book banners is that in a lot of cases they're trying to 'protect' children from information that could help them deal with problems that they WILL face in some way or another. Way back in the day (i.e., about seven years ago), I used to administer youth risk behavior surveys. The reality is incontrovertible: these things are happening. Half of students grades 9-12 have had sex. Two-thirds of 12th graders have had sex. One in four 9-12th graders has engaged in binge drinking in the past 30 days. One in three have tried marijuana, increasing to half of 12th graders.
If you have children, these numbers are frightening. If you don't, they should still be frightening.
I should also note that these data come from the 2007 Centers for Disease Control youth risk behavior survey. You can find them here if you're interested. I'm not just making them up. Really.
Of course we all want to believe that it's not our kid, not our problem. After all, if half of these students are engaging in sexual activity, that means that half aren't. But that doesn't mean that they don't have questions. That doesn't mean that they don't have friends who are facing these issues. That doesn't mean that they don't need guidance.
And that's where these books can really help. Way back in the dark ages when I was a teen, I would have been mortified to discuss s-e-x with my parents. But I could read books about other teens making decisions about sex both good and bad, and it made me THINK. Of course it doesn't guarantee a good outcome, but thinking about the issues is a pretty darned good start, isn't it?
I don't know about you, but I could have avoided some pretty embarrassing situations if I had only stopped to think. There was this one time I fell off a cliff, for example...
But I'm not telling that story now. And no, I'm not making it up, either.
Anyway, I'm sure that I'm speaking to the choir here, but it's something I wanted to say. Removing the books that talk about these issues isn't going to make the issues disappear. Frankly, I'd argue that it's only going to make it worse.
A couple of nights ago, I had the honor and privilege of meeting Ellen Hopkins. She talked about her experiences with banning attempts on her books, and she handed out the most amazing poster. My signed copy is on my wall (neiner neiner neiner). My favorite quote is:
A word to the unwise.
Torch every book.
Char every page.
Burn every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.
You can read more about the poem and the circumstances that inspired it here.
Okay, I've ranted long enough. You have more than earned the Twilight spoofage. Warning: it's PG-13 for violence and some bleeped out language. But it's beyond hilarious.