I’m not sure quite when I became aware of Banned Books week, or even the concept of books being banned or challenged at a school or a public library. As far as I can remember, we kids were allowed to read whatever was in the house or the library. My parents were pretty liberal about what reading materials were around.
One of our babysitters was the first person I remember questioning what we girls were reading. They’d left a Playboy on the coffee table, and I was glancing through it. The babysitter was horrifired that we were allowed to look at “those” kinds of magazines, and said she’d tell our parents when they got home. I don’t remember what they said but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a big deal. I don’t think Playboy magazines were always on the coffee table but they certainly weren’t hidden, and we weren’t forbidden to look at whatever reading materials were around.
As I got a little older, I surreptitiously read bits of The Joy of Sex, Coffee, Tea or Me, and Wifey, all on the bookcase in our living room. Surreptitisously becuase I was at that snotty “don’t talk to me” age rather than being discouraged not to. These were all on the living room bookshelf alongside The Family of Man, The Torch is Passed, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and some Matthew Brady photo books. If you’ve ever seen his photographs of Andersonville, you’ll know these were far more disturbing than any Playboy photos back in the 60s and 70s. As I became a teen, I read all the Judy Blume books, and I, Trissy, all books that helped me realize our family wasn’t the only one in disarray.
Once I became a parent, and appreciatd how open my folks had been about letting us read whatever we wanted, I followed the same model. When my son was young, we marked Banned Books week by reading at least one banned or challenged book. There are so many to choose from: Where The Wild Things Are, one of Shel Silverstein’s books, or something from the Goosebump series. My son loves horror movies, Stephen King, and books that would make my heart stop. But he’s a kind, well-adjusted, employed member of society, so I don’t think my allowing him to read horror books at a young age did him much damage.
The one thing banned in our house was candy. My father thought it would rot our teeth. What he didn’t know was that we’d ride our bikes to the Village Store and load up on sweets as soon as we got our allowances. We were allowed to trick or treat, and the grandparents sent us candy, but dad was never very happy about that. Wonder if my strong healthy teeth are thanks to that?
Where you allowed to read whatever you wanted as a kid?