I spent some time thinking this past Banned Book Week how lucky I've been when it comes to books and reading...
No one ever told me I couldn't read Gone With The Wind at twelve because it was inappropriate or too old for me, or that it wasn't good literature. When I began to read it, both my mom and grandmother were excited that I was trying a book they both loved. I talked about it with both of them. Shared my thoughts, talked about Scarlett's good points, cried when Mellie died. It didn't scar me, because I have read it 25 times and get something new out of it with each read.
I grew up in a family of readers, each with their own preferences that they shared with me. Grandma read True Story magazine, Grandpa read the newspaper.
My mom and dad always had books going and a pile that was waiting to be read.
My dad loved the grand historical novels of Herman Wouck and James Michner. Those led me to Steinbeck, whom I loved. I was never assigned his books in school (well, college maybe), but when I discovered him in the library, I read everything he wrote. Still today, I love the possibilities and new worlds that big, thick books offer.
Mom loved what we called "trashy novels", those romantic, often historical novels by authors whose names I no longer remember. I often looked up the historical facts I found in those novels, just to make sure they were true. I think I learned more history as a result of reading those books than I ever did in school. I loved them. Today, I have my students do a mini research of a time period before we read books like Fahrenheit 451 or Night. It's important to put things in context.
Mom also loved the gothic novels of Victoria Holt. And without that introduction I would not have found Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.... a canon book for me. And the spookiness of that is I'm sure what led me to Stephen King, an author I can't get enough of (and he writes BIG books, which satisfies that passion).
And all that freedom in my own reading as a kid carried through when I began teaching. It never occurred to me to give anything but choice to my students.
When I began my classroom library, no one told me I had to have the books approved. There was no lengthy process to go through to get approval for a book. If I found value in it, in the library it went. I've been trusted as an educator, as a reader, to choose the books my students have access to.
I'm so lucky that no one ever told me what books to read and buy.