In a secular age, I suspect that reading fiction is one of the few remaining paths to transcendence, that elusive state in which the distance between the self and the universe shrinks.”
Growing up, I don’t ever remember my parents questioning my choice of books.
No one around me was really a reader. My grandmother used to tell me fairy tales, but her eyesight wasn’t good, so I never saw her actually read.
I read anything and everything I wanted. I went back and forth between kids’ books and adult books. I read many books that weren’t “appropriate” to my age.
I read about people who want to censor certain books, make them unavailable, and it makes me sad and angry. Books and art are reflections of reality. They’re shown to help people be more empathetic. I think that the world can always use more empathetic people. Empathy is a resource we can’t possibly have enough of.
It’s true that some kids aren’t ready for certain topics in books they pick up. I don’t know if I was ready to read Go Ask Alice. This was before kids needed parental permission to check out provocative books. But it didn’t leave me with scars, and maybe helped me think about something I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to at that time. The thing is that books expose us in safe ways. The worst they can give us is eyestrain and nightmares.
The thing is that life often happens before we’re ready for it. Who’s ready for a loved one to die? Who’s ready to start a new job? Who was ready for 9/11, or school shootings?
We’re not. We can’t be. So I think allowing people to read what they want to read is a way of preparing us mentally. It doesn’t make life easier. But it can lead to better understanding of self and others. It can expose us to other people’s thinking, and make us reflect on our own thinking in a way that doesn’t happen when we’re discussing the weather or who wore it best.
And if nothing else, it can distract from the harsh realities of life, make it a little easier to get through some days.
I appreciate my parents letting me read what I wanted, without limits. I think that’s part of what made me such an avid reader. I still read anything and everything and am interested in a wide variety of topics.
Did you read anything before you were “ready”? Did your parents weigh in on your book choices?