If you are a teacher, librarian, family member, or anyone who cares deeply about children and their well-being, you’ve probably been following the news about the increased rates of book challenges happening in the United States over the past two years.
An interesting twist—there are 13 titles on this list. Multiple books received the same number of challenges. And while certainly that’s all about the numbers, it also feels like a sign of the exuberance with which some people are challenging books they don’t like and want to see kept off the shelves.
More than half of the books on the list include LGBTQIA+ content. They feature kids learning about their sexuality, figuring out their gender, and challenging outdated opinions about who is supposed to behave how.
These are the books being pulled from shelves. These are the manuscripts being passed over a publisher’s desk. These are the ideas being dismissed by a writer who needs to sell books to make a living—and the vast majority of banned books don’t sell very well.
These are the books that can help kids navigate the world and their place in it.
These are the books that over and over have shown themselves essential in finding and maintaining positive mental health outcomes in kids and teens. Because wondering about your own sexuality in a world that is often unkind can be a fraught process—books can help. Books can help teenagers feel less alone, less isolated, less weird. They can hold up mirrors that reflect uncomfortable experiences and help kids figure out what just happened? Books can change lives, even save lives.
So, if these kinds of books can help kids, why are people trying so hard to keep them off the library shelves?
Some adults believe these books contain content that’s inappropriate for students. These adults are often parents, grandparents, members of the community. Groups such as Moms for Liberty gain collective agency and funding to fan the flames of distrust for teachers and librarians who have been trained to curate an age-appropriate library.
Sometimes, they haven’t even read the book they’ve challenged.
As we enjoy National Library Week this year, let’s put our heads together and focus on protecting our children and teenagers from the people who would prevent life-saving material from getting to them.
- Read the books that are being challenged.
- Join advocacy groups such as the Freedom to Read Foundation and the National Coalition Against Censorship that are working to ensure access to books.
- Talk with the kids you know about book challenges – they are the next generation that’s going to stand in protection of individual freedom.
- Volunteer to serve on your local school board.
*Image by Timberland Regional Library (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)