the fREADom to read

I’m a reader. Since before I learned to decipher the symbols that created letters and words, I’ve been fascinated with books and stories. I had the influence of older siblings and parents I saw reading all the time. Since my father was in graduate school when I was in preschool, I even have a book I scribbled in with yellow crayon because “Daddy writes in his books!” And, because I have siblings who are much older (11 years), I learned in second grade that didn’t have to read a book that did not interest me. What I read was my choice. I learned early that I had the freedom to read.

This week, though, is the perfect time to choose the freedom to read books others try to tell us we cannot read. This week is about bringing notice to censorship. During Banned Books Week, librarians, writers, readers, and other advocates for literacy shine the spotlight on books that have been either challenged or actually banned.

What’s the difference? Challenged books are those that people out there are trying to get removed from use in schools or from library shelves. Banned books are those have already been removed. You can learn more about each type of book and those on the challenged books list by going to the Banned Books Week site. The American Library Association tracks challenges and creates lists. For example, in April 2013 Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series made the top of the list. The reason? Offensive language and unsuited for age group. Anyone who knows kids—especially boys—knows these are wildly funny and tremendously popular books. Pilkey has nailed what boys this age find funny (well he should, he once was that age). More importantly, he gets them to read! We need our children to enjoy reading so they will grow up to be readers and thinkers! To see other books on the list, click here. (http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/about)

Just a few weeks ago, one of the writers in my Creative Writing workshop approached me after class. He was concerned that I might censor his manuscript due to offensive language and sexual content. I’m always torn in these situations. As a writer I refuse to censor anyone. As the instructor I do need to take the sensibilities and comfort of the other students into consideration. (Before you argue about “comfort,” keep in mind this a lifelong learning program with some people at the beginning stages of their writing development so creating a safe and comfortable environment for sharing to learn from each other’s works is vital.) I generally leave it to the group (since group dynamics change each time the course is offered). I’ve only had one instance where someone in the group made the choice not to listen to/read the manuscript. And that is each participant’s choice, just as it is the choice of each reader as to what he or she will or will not read.

So, take a stand this week. Voice our fREADom to read. By the way, check out the lists of banned books here. Bet you’ve read one (or more)!

Advertisements

Fresh Season–Happy Autumn!

It’s here! The autumn equinox today heralds the next season. While we won’t see the transition clearly here in Florida (just more rain and humidity with the added adventure of flash flooding), I’m glad for the “change” in season. 

It’s perfect timing for a “fresh” start, something I feel a bigger need for this year after losing my father. Also, I like my routines. I’m a creature of habit—to a point. I do like shifting things around and creating new routines. New seasons are a natural time to do this. They’re a natural transition with the hope for something better in the coming months. And during autumn, I’m also looking forward to the holidays. So, as I prepare for what’s ahead, I plan with the same eagerness as I do a vacation.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t do my new year’s sort and toss. Or maybe because I didn’t have a chance to “spring clean,” or maybe it was triggered by sorting and packing my father’s house. Whatever the reason, I’ve been itching to make some changes. This month I’ve been reorganizing my home and office, sorting, tossing, and giving away. I feel I’m lightening my load and files.

Egrets at the pond.

Egrets at the pond.

Not only have I been captivated by memories, I’ve found projects ideas that got buried during moves. Several are intriguing. One is a middle grade novel for Christian girls that I started for my niece when she was 8 or 9. (She’s just celebrated her 32nd birthday. But, the basic plot is still feasible, and the ideas are churning for updating the characters and events.) Another is a proposal for an elementary nonfiction book on swans. Hmm. I’ve certainly spent plenty of time photographing them in the past. I now spend mornings watching egrets and ibis in my backyard. Perhaps it’s time to act on a “bird” book.

Swan on Higgins Lake, Michigan

Swan on Higgins Lake, Michigan

I’ve spent time in the past few weeks reading words I wrote nearly a decade ago (sometimes longer) and I’m amazed that “I wrote that!” It’s even fun to see comments from my first critique group on some of the manuscripts, too. Then there are the handouts and promo pieces I used during the first school visits I ever did. Fun to reminisce but also viable ideas for future articles.

So, I’m excited that autumn has arrived. I recall how much I always loved the bright, sunny days and crisp nights for hay rides and hot cider when I lived in the north. Now, I know I have only a few weeks more of rainy season to suffer through. In the meantime, I’ll make fresh plans for new projects and ride the excitement of change; this autumn heralds a change in season as well as a transition in my life.

What are your plans for autumn? Do you set goals? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts: Subtle Seasons; Good Morning Season