Free speech matters to me

When I was growing up, I was raised in a pretty conservative household. There were certain movies and music I wasn’t allowed to listen to. Books, however, were almost always fair game. I only remember two instances of book censorship in my young life. One was, quite predictably, Harry Potter. It had WITCHCRAFT! In the end, my mom read the books before me, which was a common occurrence anyways and we both enjoyed them so much that we got the last two at midnight the day that they were released. The second book was The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. She told me to wait til I was older to read it, after I had finished I am the Cheese as suggested by my seventh grade English teacher

Otherwise, I read anything and everything. My mom let me read everything. Reading, as a result, was how I learned about mostly everything outside of my small town. Several of the authors in the video above were some of my favorites. Since my mom became a high school librarian, I’ve been the person who read her new books to see if they are appropriate. We have shared our frustration as I get books she simply can’t put on the shelves. Some of my favorite John Green books had to wait to be shelved until they won or were nominated for prestigious YA awards. The awards justified these books that taught me to think.

I understand the temptation for censorship. Perhaps there are books that very young readers shouldn’t read. By the time a student reached high school, I think they are capable of thinking for themselves. We completely underestimate the ability of teens and even children to separate reality from fiction and to learn from this fiction.

Censorship frustrates me because it’s lazy. We need to be discussing difficult issues with our children and teens. Books bring up these topics. They allow readers to understand opinions different than their own. They offer release and escape. Teens need that. I still need that.

As a reader, a student of English, and a hopeful writer, I believe that censorship is wrong. Consider talking to young people rather than taking learning opportunities away from them. It worked for me. My beliefs were not changed by the literature I read, but I did become a more tolerant and well-rounded person. I learned to think, evaluate, and discuss. I will always promote and encourage these skills.


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