Editor: The national news is full of efforts of parents to ban all sorts of books from their school and public libraries. It reminds me of how my mother handled a similar situation when I was in seventh grade in the 1940s.
One of the boys in my class obtained a pornographic book about a rape of a young woman. He immediately was besieged by the rest of the boys to read the book. It was decided that each boy in the class in turn would have one night to read the book and then pass it on to the next boy. My turn came and with great anticipation I brought the book home, excused my self right after dinner, and proceeded to get in bed with the covers over my head to read the book by flashlight.
My mother, as was her routine, knocked on my door to pop her head in to say “good night.” An in that micro-second it takes a mother to know something is amiss, she asked what I was doing. “Reading” I said as I came out from under the blankets and she replied “that’s interesting, tell me about it.” Her quick glance at the cover of the book I was trying to hide confirmed the jig was up.
I digress from the story to note what she did not do. She did not get angry at me. And she did not threaten to go to the school and demand that they must keep this trash away from the students.
What she did was to say in that calm, mother-type voice if the book was so interesting would I please read it aloud to her. There started, perhaps, the worst moments of my life, reading pornographic filth to my mother out loud. Blessedly after a couple of minutes, she asked me to stop and explain to her why I found the book so interesting.
I really don’t remember much about the ensuing conversation in my embarrassment, but I do remember one question that I believed help shape my views for the rest of my life. My mother asked me what I thought about how the raped woman must have felt, and we both ended up crying. So ended my interest in pornography.
If my mother were still alive today, I think she would say to all those parents screaming to ban books for kids that instead they should check out the books, bring them home and read them with their children and discuss them. They may still have concerns as is their right, but at least they and the children would have an accurate perspective of the issue.
Alfred P. Van Huvck, Round Hill