They say a picture is worth a thousand words. And sometimes it’s true.
Take the image above. My husband, Navdeep Singh Dhillon, took it two weekends ago at the Brooklyn Book Festival. It’s the second time we’ve gone, and Kavi’s first — not bad for a 20-month-old. She had a grand old time. She got to color, run around the kids’ tent, hear Mo Willems read, eat gelato. It was a fun-filled day for her. And it’s continuing to instill in her a passion she already very much has, even though she’s not even two. It’s a love for books.
She can’t read them yet, but she can make things out, pointing to puppies and apples and creating her own little version of the story in her head. It’s a good place to start.
Boy was she excited to see that Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax, on a shelf of books at the festival. But boy were we disappointed to see the reason it had been placed there. It took its place, on the shelf of shame — or perhaps it’s pride? — alongside titles like The Perks of Being A Wallflower and Judy Blume’s Forever and Harry Potter andThe Hunger Games, all in a tent set up by the very noble organization, the American Library Association. The non-profit was on a mission that day: to get people reading banned books. In fact, they created a YouTube Channel of Americans across the nation participating in a Banned Books Read-Out to counteract the effects of censorship. It’s a genius idea, one that builds one person at a time.
Now I’m not saying that sometimes there isn’t sex and violence and drug abuse and other issues too heavy or perhaps inappropriate for specific readers in some of these books. Certainly that can be the case. But here’s the thing: most readers will find the right books when they’re appropriate for them. And if they’re not appropriate? Well, perhaps they’ll simply put them down. In the case of little ones, like Kavi, I think it should be up to the parents to make informed decisions about what their kids — but not everyone else’s — are reading. You decide what’s right for yourself and your family, but you don’t decide what’s right for a classroom full of kids — or a nation, for that matter.
And in this case, I certainly wouldn’t prevent Kavi from reading Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax once she’s ready for it. In fact, the book has a very important message, one I’d like Kavi to ponder herself, once she can actually read. In the meantime, I’ll continue to read to her. Even if some of those books are banned.