Upon hearing the news today that ‘The Book Of Dust’ by Philip Pullman would finally be release this year, I couldn’t help but recall a person from my past who had been ‘banned’ from reading His Dark Materials.
I write this post with some trepidation, as I know I am not a parent, but quite a liberal student who has no real responsibilities for anyone but herself (and of course, those drunken friends). However, I feel the need to explain some thoughts I have about parents who ban their children from reading certain books, or from exploring certain genres.
I understand that parents wish to protect their children from the world. Who wants their child to know of the full horrors that go on around the globe? I also understand the need to want to protect their children from mature themes such as sex, and violence. However, I can’t help but notice the hypocrisy of such situations. Children are forbidden from reading certain books, but are allowed to play video games that show all too clearly real violence that occurs every day in the world – just take Call of Duty for example. And so I find it a little odd, that parents require such restrictions on books when often the rest of their children’s lives are saturated with the very themes they are wanting to hide from them.
When I woke up to the news this morning that Philip Pullman would be publishing another book, I was over the moon. I even called up my mum excitedly multiple times to try and tell her that another book based in His Dark Materials universe was on the way (she was distinctly unimpressed that I tried to call her five times just for that) and was bouncing. And then I saw a comment on BBC news saying that this would be another book that parents would force their children to read, and I was surprised. Because, in my experience, it had been a book that had been banned for most children for its themes.
I am referring to a person I was once very close to, who kindly asked me to never read that book in front of him, or to bring it near his house. It was because it had been banned from him since he was a child for the anti-church sentiment that is expresses. I admit that I was stunned at this. The thought of having a book forbidden was an alien concept to me. He had also been barred from reading Harry Potter, and from other fantasy novels that were deemed ‘unchristian’ or not supporting of the views that his parents wanted to raise him with.
And I do agree that this is a valid point. You should want to raise your child with the beliefs you feel are the best for them. But often, especially when it comes to religion, I feel that you must let them express some of their own freedom, and allow them to explore other options. By stifling the other views and opinions in the world due to fear that they will cloud your child’s brain, I believe, will only lead to the child becoming more narrow minded.
I confess I am coming from a place where I have never had a book forbidden to me. I have always been an avid reader, always eager to see new views of the world and explore entirely new worlds in the lands of fantasy authors. My mother has never once stopped me from reading a book, even if she herself did not like the book. Even from a young age, she allowed me to choose what books I wanted to read, regardless of the opinions of the author or the views expressed in that book. After all, these were all valid views in the real world, and I would undoubtedly someday meet people who have these views – as I already have in the context of anti-church sentiment. But did this freedom lead me to losing my faith, and refusing to go to church because of a book? No. I still went to church, I had just learned a different opinion, a different view of an everyday thing to me.
The main argument I feel I am trying to make here, is that I personally do not believe you should ban a book from your child just because it counteracts with your personal belief. Although you wish to shield them from the world, eventually there will come a time when they will probably meet someone who dislikes the idea of church, or who has different viewpoints on how to live life. That doesn’t mean that any viewpoint or opinion is wrong, not at all, it just means that we all experience life through a unique lens of our own.
And personally, I feel I am better for having been allowed to read all these different opinions, simply because I feel I can understand better why some people think the way they do.