If publishers and distributors will not take responsibility for the content of their product, then we need to monitor our children's books, and censor those with the most violent and offensive content.
Widespread censorship and wholesale book banning may not seem to be a practical solution in the complex world that we live in. Filtering out books that have offensive messages may be a never ending task for which there is no end. However, we can ban a book from our libraries and public schools when common sense tells us it runs afoul of accepted sensibilities. The Supreme Court may guarantee freedom of speech, but it does not grant an audience and it does not guarantee a space in a public school classroom. We regulate movies based on content, provide ample warning on the packaging, and restrict access to them based on age. Censorship goes beyond the simple act of forbidding production, it resides in the gray area of proper labeling and age appropriate access.
Viewing material that is inappropriate for a young mind can have a profound and lasting impression on a child. As more violent and offensive material becomes available in our public schools and libraries, it filters down to younger children. A child's imagination will act out and emulate the characters they read about with the assumption it is fact and therefore acceptable. Left unchecked, violence and horror can have a severe psychological effect on children younger than 8 years old. The belief that children can tell the difference between reality and fiction at this age does not prove to be the case when subjected to scientific scrutiny. According to the University of Wisconsin's Joanne Cantor, "It's especially ineffective to try to calm children in this age group by telling them that what they have seen is not real" (Cantor). Children will believe what they have read and it can carry a lasting effect that will permanently mold a mind with an unrealistic view of the world and reinforce crude, violent, and inappropriate behavior.
Censorship should reach beyond the sexually charged, profane, and graphic violence that is only the most visible sign of inappropriate children's literature. Messages that are racist, sexist, and derogatory can desensitize children to the callus and inflammatory remarks that find their way into books and into our libraries. In the book "One Fat Summer" which the publisher says is appropriate for 12 and up, a young man fears jumping from a diving board. He laments in his fright, "... they kept screaming for me to jump, to show I was a man; if I didn't jump I couldn't be a man, I'd be a fag all my life" (Lipsyte, 207). A 12-year-old will likely repeat this slur against the gay community and use it with the mistaken belief that it is an acceptable form of public speech. Messages that are contained in derogatory images of social, ethnic, or racial groups are as common and just as powerful as overt violence, yet they may lay hidden in an otherwise placid story of kindness and sincerity.
We control every other aspect of our child's education and we should also control what they read. We scrutinize their math, grammar, and history books for accuracy. Why should we treat children's litera