Monday, October 5, 2015

Reverse Psychology and Banned Books Week

All librarians, and educators as well, want to see children read with as much enthusiasm as they have when playing video games, watching sports and spending time with their friends.   Reading is good for them.   That is not an opinion, it's a fact.  However, ever teens will comment that they don't have time to read or that it's boring.  Yes, it is sometimes tedious when turning to the page and reading from left to right  Isn't it just as  tedious as pushing a bottom continuously trying to make Mario and Luigi get out of Level 4, only to "miss the jump"  again and have to go through the same receptive scenes until there is success.  Success that is to  Level 5 and it is a bit harder trying to save the Princess.  Poor Princess, she keeps waiting to be saved.   What if educators told kids they couldn't  read. They were not allowed  to read.  What would be the impact?

Let's take a look at Banned Books Week as a way to entice children to read. After all it is meant to grab the attention of readers and lure them into reading one of the "banned" books.   The American Library Association have taken the idea a bit too dramatic.  With statements and posts suggesting that children were not allowed to read Where The Wild Things Are or Wizard of Oz because of dark content or other such nonsense. It's a bit of an exaggeration, isn't?    These titles were never banned nationwide.  Only in  a few isolated areas.  This country has never had censorship written into law.   Publishers have set their own standards when it comes to what they will or will not publish.  For example,   vulgar language will not appear in picture books for children.    That is a consensus that the publishers have generally adopted.  There are no American laws which state specifically what an or can not be published.    That is why freedom of speech is protected under the Bill of Rights.   There has been banning of books in other countries and culture, and that is a topic that is worth discussing at another time.   It is difficult  to see how teens, and adults of that matter, are buying into the concept of Banned Books Weeks.  There  needs to be another angle to approach this topic to make it effective.

Back to the question posed previously, what would be the impact if a teen or adult were told they could not read?  Would they demand the book?  Would they demand to read?  This was an experiment that was done on a small scale to teen boys in a private high school many years ago.  Granted it was on a very small scale with only four boys participating, but it proved an important point.  The boys were told that all books were off limit to them.  One title in particular they could not "handle" was , One Who Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.  That title was deemed inappropriate by the library staff and therefore would not be available.  One of the boys, said nothing accepted the ruling.  The other three boys demanded answers.  Why couldn't they read the book?  What was in it that was so  bad?  Couldn't they determine for themselves what was good or bad?  None of the answers from the Library Staff appeased them.   This went on for a day or two until one of the boys walked into the library and proudly sat himself in one of the comfortable chairs and opened, in plain sight for everyone to see, One Who Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.    His friends joined him.  They thought they had pulled off the biggest stunt ever.  Well, what was the library staff to do?  Applaud them for sticking to their guns and going against authority. Applaud them for finding other ways to gain the knowledge that was denied them.   Obviously this is the silliest ban in the history of the school and perhaps, the universe, but it proved a point.  Tell a teen  they can't do something and watch them bend the rules to do exactly what they were told they could not do.

Banned Books Week should take this approach with teens.  Don't bore teens (and adults) with minor little incidents where books were challenged.  Turn it into a reverse psychology game and tell them they can't read this book because  (insert a unique excuse here.)   Perhaps this will generate a positive reaction from readers young and old.  It may even get a few nonreaders to read one book this year.    It just might drive home the point of banned books in a different light.

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