This week, September 26 through October 3, is Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week is a national celebration of the freedom to read. Launched in 1982, its purpose is to draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events.
Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers, and the National Association of College Stores, and is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.
According to the American Library Association there were 513 book challenges in school and public libraries reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2008, but they believe the total is larger. The Banned Books Week website sports a map listing books challenged from 2007 to 2009 around the country.
An examination of this map shows that most book challenges are done by parents for school libraries and reading lists. Complaints are from parents who are concerned about the content of a book. Most complaints revolve around books being too sexually explicit, having offensive language, or being anti-religious.
I am a true believer of freedom of speech and press. I believe that people should be able to print what they like. However, I also believe that children need to be protected from material that is not age-appropriate or that parent’s find offensive for their children. The ultimate judge of this should be each child’s parent.
Herein lies the rub. Schools allow children to borrow any book from the school library. Parents have no control over what their children borrow. Nowhere else is this true.
Parents can control what their children watch on television, in the movies, on video games, and over the Internet. The movie and video industries have done a good job of helping parents with this. These industries “rate” their products so that parents know which products may contain something that is offensive or too advanced for children (such as nudity, language, and violence).
I believe the answer for Banned Books Week is for publishers to institute a similar rating for books. What would it look like if publishers began to place ratings similar to movies or video games on the books they sell for juveniles?
How cool would it be for a book to be rated G for everybody, PG for Parental Guidance, PG-13 for not recommended for children younger than 13, and R for not recommended for children under 17 years of age? Then parents would know which books might contain offensive material or material too advanced for their young child’s mind and elementary school libraries could only stock G and PG rated books due to the age of the children in their school.
After all, it is the job of parents to protect their children from the evils of society, whether that is a sexual pervert showing kids inappropriate pictures or an immoral author using a book to explain sexual acts to a young child.
Anyone willing to join me in a petition to the Association of American Publishers?