Don’t touch that hot stove! Don’t pull the dog’s tail! Don’t say bad words! Tell a kid that they can’t do something and what’s the normal response? Do it. Why? Because your parents, the commanders of your universe, told you not to not to do it (which is the simultaneous birthplace of both your curiosity and independence). Don’t they remember being a kid — and that delicious wanting to know what’s on the other side of “Don’t?”
One of my greatest joys as an author is to inspire kids to read. Books were my curiosity creators and my independence days, dreaming up entire universes of imagination and possibility, all within this hand-held, human-made wonder.
But being told “Don’t read that book.” Or better yet, ban it. Huh? Why?
You — the book banners of the world— have now unleashed one of the oldest unintentional human marketing schemes since the dawn of kids. The “Don’t.” You have done the one thing you can’t do to kids — make something mysterious or forbidden. And now they want to read the book you have banned. I’m sure this was not your intention but, nonetheless, you have unleashed the good intentions behind the power of “Don’t.” Because if the book you’re banning contains forbidden or mysterious information that adults don’t want you to read, it must be worth reading. Taboo sells.
So, to all book banners, thank you.
Banning books? The Greatest Marketing Scheme to get Kids to Read Books Again . . .
Book banners: You are now in the marketing business. Your motto should be, “Books your parents don’t want you to read.” Brilliant. That will seal the deal. Why did “1984” become a bestseller again? Because it was banned again.
And all those obscure books you’re ferreting out to ban? Now you’re really helping to put them on the map, and even making them bestsellers again. Some are books that maybe a few kids might have read, if at all. Now kids — and parents — want to read them because you say not to read them. Brilliant marketing and marvelous adult logic.
The 10-Million Pound Elephant in the Room is the Internet. If you’re scared of the books in the library, you should be horrified at the Internet. You think that banning books about identity, sexuality, racism, slavery, or finger painting is going to stop a kid from wanting to know — if they want to know more? Nope. Now they can turn to your worst nightmare — the Internet. Because most likely what they’ll encounter on the web is absolutely everything you don’t want them to see or hear in the most graphic ways you can and can’t imagine. If nature abhors a vacuum, then curiosity abhors knowledge that’s locked up.
By banning a book, you are choosing to decide my own — and everyone else’s — reading destiny. Freedom is not about taking one’s choice away. It’s about allowing more choices. It’s trusting us to figure it out all on our very own. And the liberty to choose what to read — or not.
Taking away a book that’s offensive offends me. Books are easy to bully. You can find anything in any book you want to be offended by and that’s the ultimate slippery slope of book banning. Heck, you can even be offended by “The Cat in the Hat” or “Winnie the Pooh” if you’re so inclined. But fundamentally when you ban a book, you take away my freedom to be offended by something I may want to read — or not. And that’s offensive.
What are we teaching our kids? Fear. Fear is what we teach our kids when we don’t want them to know. Banning books is about banning knowledge. And when we don’t trust them with knowledge, we lose our ability — and respect to talk. Because fear loves secrecy. It thrives on lack of communication — the worst thing you can do with kids who are trying to figure out the world. It’s so much better to talk with them about ideas that they’re curious about because they’ll find out anyway — and maybe not in a responsible, mature way.
What should we teach our kids? Trust. Let’s trust our kids to explore. To be curious. And give them the freedom to be curious. That’s the most powerful form of liberty for kids.
Our job as parents is to teach our kids where knowledge fits into their world. How to question it and how to use it — or not use it. The freedom to learn, to question, to comprehend, to converse, and to do it over and over again is one of the greatest legacies that books continue to give the world, and nobody can take that liberty and legacy away from us.
Carew Papritz is the award-winning author of the bestselling inspirational book, ‘The Legacy Letters.’ Through his innovative literacy efforts to inspire kids to read, Papriz has created the ‘I Love to Read’ and ‘First-Ever Book Signings’ through his ‘CarewTube’ video series.