I remember that I was the only one in third grade who had read Silas Marner - not that I necessarily understood all of the layers of the story, but I got the gist of it. Teachers were always a little suspicious of me and what I would say that I was reading/had read.
My parents never told me that I couldn't or shouldn't read something. I would like to think that it was because they knew that if something was forbidden, it might be that much more appealing. But to be honest, I think they just figured that I'd decide for myself if something was stupid/upsetting/interesting/shocking/whatever. And there were truly all kinds of books and magazines around - trust me.
I remember during the summer between 5th and 6th grade, I looked forward to the bookmobile that came every Tuesday. One week, I had a few books, and one was some kind of fairy tale. They wouldn't let me check it out because I wasn't "old enough." It was the first time I had ever been told I wasn't allowed to read something, for any reason, and I was completely stunned. When I told my mother, she said she would go with me the next week and check out the book for me. She thought the whole thing was just "so da**ed ridiculous!"
Later I would meet other people who were not allowed to read certain things as a child or even as a teenager, because their parents, or someone else in charge, didn't approve. And it never ceases to amaze me that someone else's decision might mean I can't read something and decide for myself how I feel about it.
Words are powerful. Put together in a sentence, they can actually express an idea. Plenty of people do not like ideas if they are not in tune with their own. Some of those people feel that it is their responsibility and duty to make sure that none of us read these ideas. Or are exposed to fantastical stories. Or have the chance to learn about human biology. Or appreciate a world that is part of our past, or completely outside of our own experiences and cultural beliefs.
Have you ever read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck? What about In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak? The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini? The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman? To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee?
If you answered "yes" to any of these, you should be careful. The titles above and many others have been challenged as inappropriate for one reason or another, and have been requested to be removed from library shelves. Curious? Look through some of these lists, and you may find out that you are quite a bit more radical than you thought you were.
It's Banned Books Week. Read. Think. Be subversive.