I was four when I taught myself to read. By five, I was reading stories and books designated for much older children and thoroughly enjoying them. My uncle’s “Boy’s Own” and “Hotspur” were favourites because each week there were exciting serials.
Childhood in England in the ‘40’s was difficult, as it was in every evolved country. Toys and games hard to obtain and young imaginations needed to be diverted from the world outside. Thank goodness for books; they helped me through many lonely and frightening times.
Over the years, my love of reading has not diminished. As a teenager, when washing-up was to be done, I was in the bathroom with my beloved book. Later whilst pots boiled over and cakes burned, I could be found, a million miles away with the latest Dennis Wheatley thriller and maybe an apple.
As my children grew, I read to them constantly. Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses” was the all time favourite.
Imagine then my shock, when trying to find “The Land of The Faraway Tree” for my young daughter, to discover that the author had been banned from all libraries and quality book shops. It seemed that this consummate weaver of stories and developer of imaginations was an unfit writer. Her vocabulary below the acceptable educational standard. But what of the pictures that she had drawn in my mind, for what seemed, forever?
Had these so called “pundits” been with me on those dark cold evenings spent in the Anderson Shelter when the bombs were dropping fast and furious and I was locked in oblivion with “Biggles” or “Worrals” or “The twins at St. Claires?” Was I really literally deprived? Had my extraordinary imagination really been stunted? I, who had read and enjoyed “War and Peace” in my teens (before it was fashionable to do so), mentally illiterate?
I confess! I had been guilty for years of reading books that should have been banned or burnt! How could I possibly be searching for the same trash for my own children?
Incidentally the author has since been rewritten and reinstated and my grandchildren have enjoyed the books denied my children.
My love of reading had been fanned by this remarkable woman author. My lively imagination set rampaging by stories of mystery and adventure as I ran on lonely islands looking for treasure or to evade capture from spies as very real bombs or doodlebugs hailed around me night after night during the blitz.
now, I shudder. I buy them for my grandson as he enjoys them and his parents have vetted the books, plus it keeps him reading. That, after all, is the whole purpose. Enjoyment of a good book cannot be beaten at any age.
I have read just about everything from Alberto Moravio, George Elliot, Tolstoy, Shakespeare and Homer to the telephone directory, all with a great deal of enthusiasm. I have read real pornography as well as The Bible. With this wide variety of reading, I know which books I enjoy, which I will buy or read and it is not for others to make that decision for me or mine.
There are authors that I will never buy. Not necessarily because of what they say, but why they say it. I have a selfimposed censorship, for example, on “Diana in Love.” Not because I, a rampant monarchist, am disinterested in the Princess of Wales, but because the author is a cad, a bounder and an opportunist. If others wish to read it, that is their prerogative.
Who has the right to decide what others shall or shall not read, what is right and what is wrong? There was a tremendous hue and cry in the democratic world when Hitler burnt thousands of valuable books and manuscripts. Are the critics not as bad when they ban my own childhood favourites?
The author, Enid Blyton, I’m sure that this simple woman and children’s story teller extraordinaire, never expected to join the ranks of Tennessee Williams, D. H. Lawrence and Salman Rushdie.
Certainly I agree with a certain amount of censorship and that all things should not be available for all ages. But reading material should be categorized and placed accordingly. If young are not ready, they cannot interpret or comprehend what has been written. The “Treasure Island” that I read at eight years of age was vastly different than that I read at fifteen.
All books should not be available in school libraries but with so many thousands of new books being printed daily, how can the occasional “bad” book be caught except by a diligent, intelligent and informed librarian who uses good judgment.
In all things there must be moderation. Children must learn how to censor their own material. If there is never a book to object to, how can that lesson be learnt? Guidance is required but please let it be sane. And, please, leave Enid Blyton and Noddy alone!