Sunday, May 21, 2017

Censoring is Not Protecting: a Meandering Case for Letting Your Kids Read What They Want

I have a friend who talks about her affection for a woman known as "the Culture Lady" in her community. This is someone who knows what theater, operas, and concerts are the ones to see and why, and brings kids or friends to these events.

I tend to wince when someone says "Culture lady" because to me, art isn't "culture." It's breath and air and oxygen, respite and escape, and the word "culture" almost diminishes it.

But I get what my friend is talking about. She wants art to matter more than it does, and she hopes people will take it seriously. Or at least get engaged with it.

That's turning out to be a tall order in our phone-obsessed, technology-driven world. But if we are going to respect art, we need to respect people's right to view it, interpret it, and become moved or angered or excited, as the case may be.

My mother was strict in many ways, but liberal in what she allowed me to read or see, so films or books considered "adult" were not forbidden to me. I remember my sister was reading a book about a prostitute and no one hid the book when I was around.

Naturally I tried reading my sister's book, though I was only 8 and a lot of it was over my head. I don't think I finished the book or even read most of it. But just skimming through made me feel like the world was a bit wider and more open to me. And I liked that feeling.

That's probably why I tried to be liberal with what I let my son read as well. I say this because again, art isn't "culture" to me. It's everything. And I want my son to be able to live and breathe in artistic waters as freely as possible.

Plus, my son had (has) lots of other things vying for his attention, such as TV and video games. So I felt if I censored his book choices, I'd be cutting out a lot of his reading time.

I know there are people who don't agree and who are very committed to sharing only "age appropriate" books or films with their kids. I tried to stay away from violent films (but good luck if you're a parent of a ten-year-old.) If I have to choose, I'd say it's better if your kid reads adult books instead of adult films. 

Regardless of what my son was reading or seeing, what I always tried to do was explain the artist's intent and talk about it. I guess I did that because I think it's important to support reading. And I'm happy to see that today, my son is reading a lot of what might be called "difficult" or "classical" books that I never would have thought he'd like.

Your thoughts on this are welcome, of course! And here's some other viewpoints on this subject.

Do you Censor Your Kids' Reading Material?

Kids Should Read Whatever They Want, Whenever They Want

Should You Censor What Your Kids Read?