Don’t Ban Books Like Eleanor and Park, Teens Need Them

Don’t Ban Books Like Eleanor and Park, Teens Need Them:


I really enjoyed this piece about “Eleanor & Park” being a life preserver for many kids and young people.

I kind of alluded to a supplemental idea in an early post, but I wanted to go a bit more into depth here. I have been a reader ever since I could read. And through reading, I experienced many lives.

I bawled when I read about Leslie in “Bridge to Terabithia” and during “Where the Red Fern Grows” also. I remember first learning about how children in England were sent to the country during the war while I was reading “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”. I probably held my breath when Annemarie was hiding on the boat from the Nazi soldiers in “Number the Stars”. I probably got in trouble (as I frequently did) for reading to the end of “In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson”. I felt the humidity come off the pages in “The Watsons go to Birmingham – 1963” and I turned each page with dread because it felt like the climax was already written (it was). 

I’ve read books about boarding schools, soccer players, ballerinas, teen parents, survivors of abuse, people with disabilities or mental illnesses, kids with no parents or step-parents or foster parents, and people from all over the world. And in every book and many of the characters, I found something to relate to; there was some piece of humanity that resonated with me. But these stories and these characters were utterly different from me still. 

I have lived all of my life in one state in the middle of one country. I’ve traveled far less than I would have liked and the majority of my friends had backgrounds very close to my own. But I don’t feel like I’ve been sheltered and I don’t feel naive.

Sometimes books can be an escape and sometimes they can be life-preservers. Frequently for me, they are keys which give me access to lives and circumstances I’ve never encountered. 

Another reason not to ban books like “Eleanor & Park” is that fiction provides a buffer which allows us to question our own prejudices and actions through the prejudices and actions of fictional others. The Eleanor’s and Park’s of the world need these kinds of books to stay on the shelves because they are important and valuable and they need to know that and need to know that it can and will get better. But the rest of us need these books too.

I can identify with them for feeling like and outsider sometimes, but I can also identify with just wanting to go along to get along. And I pity people who refuse to see the goodness and value in others. The bullies and the bystanders need these books too. 

Because books are magical. They take us into new worlds, but the lessons we learn in those worlds follow us back home.

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