When I was in the fifth grade (I’m guessing, but that sounds right to me, around ten or eleven years old), I discovered that my grandmother had a book that I very much wanted to read.
It was GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell.
I’d seen the movie at Grandma’s house. (Funny that I remember specific movies that we watched at her house…and so do my siblings and cousins…and we all remember the same movies…Gone With the Wind, Big Jake, Disney’s Robin Hood, and the Three Amigos are the ones we all remember.) I’d loved the movie and when I saw the book, I wanted to read it.
If you remember from my last (non-picture) post, I was the kid who read EVERYTHING.
Grandma caught me reading it when I was at her house, and told me that I was too young to understand it.
That only made me want to read it more.
For the next year or so, every time I was at Grandma’s house, I made sure that I knew where that book was. Whenever she wasn’t looking, I snuck it out of the shelf and hid in another room to read it. If I spent the night at her house, I hid it upstairs where I could stay up and read after she went to bed.
Oh, I’m sure I wasn’t as crafty as I thought I was when I was a kid. I’m sure she knew I was looking at it. I got caught a few times, and was, again, told that I wouldn’t understand it. I was too young to read it.
About a year or so later, I’d read the whole thing. I loved the book.
When I was sixteen years old, Grandma bought me a lovely, brand-new, hardcover edition of my own for Christmas, with the statement that I’d always wanted to read it so she thought it would be a good gift for me. She was right. I tried very hard to bite my tongue, but the story came out eventually…I told her I’d read the whole thing, but that I would read it again, and would savor my copy because she had gotten it for me.
You know what? She was right.
Re-reading the book at sixteen made a whole lot more sense than it had five years or so earlier.
Did that diminish my ability to read it and enjoy it when I was younger? Nope.
Would I have stuck with it if I’d been allowed to read it on my own? Good question. Honest answer is that I don’t know.
I’ve always been the contrary one. Tell me I can’t read something or learn some new skill or reach a certain goal and be darned if I’m not throwing everything I’ve got toward reaching that goal, or reading that thing, or learning that skill. Her statement that I was too young for that book meant I was going to read it come heck or high water.
Why do I bring this up?
Well, other than a great story about me, my grandma, and a wonderful book, I bring it up to illustrate the utter ineffectiveness of telling a kid what they can and can’t read.
There are some kids out there that won’t read something until you tell them they can’t. Then they will make sure they do.
The writer in me hates the idea of censorship of any kind. The reader in me feels the same way. But the memory of that eleven year old kid I used to be? Well, being told no probably lit a fire under me to do more, to push myself harder, and to push my way through parts I didn’t understand, because I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t understand them.
So you know what? Probably smart to take stock of the kid you’re talking about. There probably wasn’t a better way to motivate me to read that book than telling me I couldn’t. Another kid probably would have put it down and walked away.
And I have to admit to still being stubborn today. But that desire not to give up still burns.
Go ahead. Tell me I can’t do something. I dare you. Not that it’ll work for things like breaking the law, or being unethical. But if I’ve set a goal for myself and you tell me I can’t do it…you’ve pretty much guaranteed that I’m not giving up until I’ve done everything within my power to get there.
Oh, and telling a kid they’re not supposed to watch that movie or play that game or read that book? Pretty much guarantees they’re gonna do it anyway. Only thing forbidding it means…at least for me as a kid…was that I didn’t go talk to anyone about trying to understand the parts I didn’t get. How much more would I have understood if I’d asked about it?
Anyone else have a book like this that they read as a kid when the adults around them said no?
3 thoughts on “Gone With The Wind”
I don’t know. Kids can be discouraged from reading (or just about anything). Not everyone reacts the way you did, Addie. It’s funny that your grandmother didn’t want you to read Gone with the Wind. I wonder what she thought about it that made her think you weren’t ready. Either way, she was acting as the filter. While I don’t think keeping certain materials from a child is always the best idea, adults do have the responsibility to act as a filter. When my daughter wants things for which she is not ready, I just tell her when she’s bigger. It gives her something for which to look forward and we find something more age-appropriate. Of course, she’s 30 months old. I don’t know what she’ll be like at ten.
I guess my real point is to consider the kid…not just the book or the topic. I know it’s easy for people to say what they will and won’t let kids do.
My point is…that if you’ve got a kid like me who’s gonna read it anyway, maybe it’s a better idea 1) to NOT forbid it…if it’s not rebellion to do the forbidden thing, maybe it’s not as appealing to do it, and 2) if you’re worried about it and you know the kid’s gonna go read it the minute your back is turned, forbidding it merely means that they’re not gonna come talk to you about the issue that made you forbid it in the first place.
Got no problem with a filter. But I guess I’m saying that it was an unsuccessful one.
And the point here isn’t to necessarily get into who was right or wrong…but to start a discussion about what things we were forbidden from and what our reactions were as kids to exactly that…being forbidden from reading a book or a seeing a movie or playing a game. What did we do?
I don’t know. The filter worked. It demonstrated that there was a reason to read that book. Your grandmother was certainly keeping something from you. She obviously wanted you to read the book someday, just not when you were in fifth grade. I’m sure you read it with a careful eye, looking for whatever it was your grandmother didn’t think you were ready for. Then, when you read it again at 16, you saw different things and could pull from that earlier experience. Either way, this was an interesting topic to ponder. I’ve considered it myself only about other things. Check the links…