If you had the power to wish books out of print, would you ever use it?
#BlogHerWritingLab Thursday, April 21, 2016
If you had the power to wish books out of print, would you ever use it? Why or why not?
Back in September of 1976, I was a newlywed.
I had met my future husband the prior summer, in July of 1975, while teaching summer school.
That summer of 1975 was by far the worst and one of the best summers of my life. I had met my future husband, but my Dad had died suddenly. I was in a state of disbelief and grief beyond words.
My Dad was very proud of me, the first woman on both my maternal and paternal sides to attend college. I had graduated from Rhode Island College in May of 1974 with a BA in Education, concentration in English. Teaching jobs were very scarce in the mid-1970’s – remember, I was teaching summer school and did not have a full-time teaching position – and my Dad had encouraged me to further my education with another concentration in Reading. He said that Reading Teachers would always be needed.
I believed him and began my search for degree programs. I took a course in Reading at Rhode Island College to test the waters of a new degree. I loved the course, but after my Dad died, I just didn’t feel like staying in the same place. I felt restless and empty. I gathered lots of literature from colleges and universities within an hour or two from my Mom’s home and settled on applying to Boston University’s M.Ed. program in Reading.
I did get a part-time teaching position at a small junior high school in Connecticut, but serendipitously, as life often works, I was called by the principal of the school of my summer school position and asked to interview for a full-time position. Ah, the school where this-guy-who-would-become-my-husband was teaching. I got the job.
I also applied to Boston University. I was accepted into the Master’s program, which set me on my course to become a Reading Teacher and then Reading Specialist.
By September of 1976, I was a newlywed, a full-time English teacher in Rhode Island on a course to begin a Master’s Program 4 nights/week plus full-time the following summer. The drive to Boston was an hour and a half each way.
I remembered my Dad’s encouragement and my husband was all in for the journey. All the while, my husband was working on a Master’s Degree in Guidance/Counseling at Providence College. Ah, to be young!
But all of this leads me to 1 very important thing that I learned about Reading and Books and Reading Books while following my Dad’s initial advice and working so hard on that M.Ed:
Any “book” is better than no book ~ In each class I took at BU, there was a continual theme of “any book is better than no book” – to include comic books, automobile magazines, romance novels, sheet music, art books, tv guides, sports pages of newspapers, recipe books, fashion magazines. You name it. If a kid has something within the responsible guidelines of school to READ, it’s worth having. We as content/elective teachers – English, History, Science, Math, Home Economics, etc. – were brought down a notch or two in the ownership department of worthy reading materials.
I’ve never forgotten this Master’s Degree classroom conversation, long after earning my degree (1977 – 40 years ago – yikes) and teaching both English and Reading for 30 years. In fact, this dialogue shaped my career as a teacher and most probably as a parent and now grandparent, as well.
To understand that Reading is fundamental, I understand that Reading materials and books and selections of things to read is a fundamental right that comes with great responsibility. I would argue that wishing a book out of print because if offends someone or angers someone or causes resentment, indignation, disgust, outrage or fear… well, we must use our tenets of freedom to openly discuss the choices of our books and address our differences.
Wishing books out of print is censoring thought. Censoring thought is putting end to freedom.
Of course, there are books for which I would prefer a great level of reader insight and maturity, but how are insight and maturity measured? I would say age, for one. What do you think?
And I might question just how a child, adolescent or young person came to have a particular book. This is a conversation not to wish a book away, but again, to address responsible behavior regarding the contents of a book/magazine/newspaper/guide.
This is a very tough question today in light of our world’s unrest and the easy dissemination of books and information. But getting back to working on a Reading Degree 40 years ago, with what we thought at that time was a veritable flood of information — how could we teach kids to read and then take reading from them? How could we do this today?
I wonder what the professors at BU would say today about “any book is better than no book”?
I wonder what my Dad is thinking. If it were possible to wish books out of print, would there be need for schools and reading teachers with so many books wished away? As a little aside, I picked up Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell when I was in 8th grade. The book was bigger than me! My Dad questioned my reading this book, saying that the contents may be a bit over my head… but I was so entranced with the story that he “allowed” me to continue. He knew that there are more ways/places to read a book than openly in front of your parents.
Wow. Some degree of Fahrenheit 451?
What would we burn or ban or wish out of print? Literature, History, Religion, Pornography, Art, Music, Poetry, Philosophy, How-to Books? Or just things we find disagreeable?
I think I need a How-to Answer This Question book.