I was asked to speak on the topic of choosing picture books at Author Fest of the Rockies this year. Of course I jumped at the chance to talk about children’s books, which I love. I came up with a workshop called Choosing Picture Books that Work for Your Child and You. I took the approach that although adults and kids might have different goals in mind when they pick out a book, any form of reading can be beneficial. Yes, this includes Captain Underpants, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Garfield.
My theory is that we don’t need to teach our kids to love stories. We’re born with that. Do you watch TV? You love stories. We do need to show them that reading isn’t scary. It’s relaxing and freeing.
Of course I think you should expose your kids to literature, read quality fiction and non-fiction, and be discerning about their maturity and what topics they can handle. But I don’t think you need to feel guilty when your kid streaks through the latest Captain Underpants release. If that builds their joy in reading, so be it.
When I arrived at the wonderfully funky Business of Arts Center in Manitou Springs, I checked in with Black Cat Books, the folks in charge of selling books at the event. I immediately zeroed in on the Banned Books bracelets.
I love jewelry related to the written word! One tile on the slimmer bracelet caught my eye. That’s right! Captain Underpants. I bought it, displayed it during my presentation, and then showed it to my kids when I got home.
You probably already know September 30th through October 6th is Banned Book Week. I was just perusing some of the titles and reasons they were challenged this morning. A few I’ve read. Most I haven’t. Some I’d love to read. Some I’d exercise my right not to read.
But after reading the list, I was a little surprised when I picked up my eleven-year-old from school and he proclaimed, “I read banned books,” and showed me a button he got at school.
“Cool!” I said.
“I don’t know why they’re banned. I guess for bad words and stuff.”
Poor kid. Someday he’ll know better than to bring up such a topic with his mother.
What followed was my philosophical argument for exploring difficult subjects in literature for the good of all humankind. I ended by saying that I write about things that some people don’t think should be in Christian fiction. (Because romantic revenants and faeries that do chores are so controversial.)
“They just want happiness and flowers and Amish people,” I grumbled.
Monkey, seeing his opportunity to sneak a word in while Mom took a breath, hollered from the back seat. “They need action too!”
I laughed. For him, a good book means a book with plenty of action. Simple as that.
I got off my soapbox. Took the chip off my shoulder and stored it for later use. And I thought, “Write a good book, Evangeline. With action! Nobody cares about the rest.”
So, what banned books have you read? I didn’t read all the lists at the banned books site but I know The Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland and Huckleberry Finn have been banned or contested. I’ve read those. And Captain Underpants. Don’t forget Captain Underpants!