banned books week

Take a look, it's in a book...Reading Robot!

It’s that time of year again, when robots try to find a decent book to read. Otherwise known as Banned Books Week.  Children’s books are supremely well-represented on annual lists of challenged books because of a conspiracy on the part of children’s publishers to bring attention to their products, and librarians are hearty defenders of children’s right to read. Remember this as you go on.
Because I can’t resist a good reference book, I dipped into the old Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairy Tales and came up with the following from the entry on Childhood and Children: the author of Centuries of Childhood, Philippe Aries, aruges that childhood is “a cultural construction that emerged in Europe in the seventeenth century and came to full fruition in the eighteenth century. Prior to that time…what might now be clearly seen as child was merely a small person, with limited economic potential, and the separate and protected sphere of childhood did not exist.”
Along with the Enlightenment idea of the tabula rasa came the belief that children were born pure and could be corrupted by malicious influences, including the wrong sort of books.
In the Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature, the entry on censorship mentions Anthony Comstock, the 19th-century politician who crusaded to ban dime novels. Comstock’s image of children as glasses of sparkling water that could be dirtied with a single drop of ink led to the fight to ban ink. Okay, maybe just dime novels, which were, after all, printed in ink.
And who to enlist in this marvelous war, in which small defenseless children were to be protected against Vermicious Books? Why, librarians, of course. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Same of Tom Sawyer? Those characters are hardly benign influences on children. Get them out of the library! Nancy Drew? Her girl-powered hijinks will only lead children to believe that they are as powerful as adults. Librarians were eager to offer children the very best books and took a moral interest in young readers’ development. Farewell, red-haired detective.
Now we move on to an odd coincidence. At least, I think it’s a coincidence. Someone set me straight if I’m wrong. The Curriculum Materials Center at Minnesota State University Moorhead gives an award for the best read-aloud picture book for older children. Note: this is an award given by librarians, or at least supported by the library. It’s name? The Comstock Read Aloud Book Award. It’s named in honor of the award’s funder, the Solomon G. Comstock Memorial Fund, so I’m guessing there’s maybe only a distant relation, if any, between the two Comstocks. But what if it was the Anthony Comstock Book Award? Maybe for books to be read in a closet somewhere where no one can chastise you.
The point of this highly inefficient ramble? Make like a robot and celebrate your freedom to read.