Did you know that from July 2021 to March 2022, 5049 schools from 32 states restricted access to selected books for almost 4 million students? The majority of these have topics such as the LGBTQ+ community, racism, activism, and religion. An example of this is the most banned book from 2021-2022, Gender Queer, a memoir about and encouraging the exploration of gender identity and sexuality. Students are being restricted access to these books because the adults can’t handle the thought that an idea different from theirs could be valid and acceptable. Whenever I hear of instances of book banning, it makes me wonder. why books are banned and taken away when the same information found in a book can be found online, where it is likely more opinionated and less reliable because of the anonymity and ability to say anything online? This is why we must put a stop to book banning now. I propose that the American Library Association form school-wide unions of parents, students, and staff to speak out and challenge book bans at school board meetings.
Ever since I was a young child, I have loved reading. I used to wait all day to read Dr. Seuss aloud to my parents as my bedtime story. And as I grew up, I began reading and navigating the world more and more by myself. I have never experienced any form of censorship with books, only guidance. My parents have never controlled what I read. They instead looked at and talked with me about what I read. At my school, banned books are displayed outside the library for everyone to read. But as these things happen elsewhere in America, the same books we put on display are confiscated and burned. I can’t imagine what it’s like, but some kids live through it daily. And I feel nothing but anger at the adults who can’t handle opinions different from theirs and need to take it out on children by preventing them from accessing this information. This causes children to end up just like their parents did: unaware and unable to handle opinions and information different from their beliefs.
Book banning restricts students’ access to books with inappropriate content, affecting students’ knowledge not only about these topics but about many others. An article on the George Mason University website describes how books help students learn about the outside world and places they can’t go to. Books also help them learn critical thinking, especially books about people with diverse identities, which are the ones being banned. For younger kids, it can cause large gaps in knowledge. The books being banned teach children much more knowledge that they need to be informed about the world, like world events and how to think critically. An article by The Elm of Washington College dives deeper into the effects of book banning on students, remarking, “Banning books on the basis of political controversy only fosters ignorance and isolation. Students who are unaffected by issues like racism will remain uninformed about them. Meanwhile, marginalized students will remain ostracized from their more privileged peers as schools display an unwillingness to foster inclusivity in the classroom and tell their stories.” Banning books, whether students have similarities or connections to them or not, still affects everyone. Withdrawing banned books from school libraries and restricting students’ access leaves them uninformed about important topics, which leads to uninformed adults.
In response to this issue, The American Library Association should form school-wide unions of students, parents, and staff to speak out and fight book bans at school board meetings. The George Mason University website states, “Challenges happen so frequently that the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom keeps track of the most challenged books each year.” Since they keep track of all the book bans, they would be an ideal organization to aid people in lifting book bans. This is an actionable and reasonable solution because the American Library Association has the scope and resources to achieve this. Smaller school-wide unions will be able to better tackle individual issues to get the number of books banned to zero.
Book banning is a major issue affecting all involved parties, and it’s important for those affected to stand up and challenge book bans where they are, as they are happening. If book banning continues to happen, students today and in the future will still be restricted in the knowledge and information they deserve to know. If book banning happens long enough, these parts of history could be erased. So we all need to stand up today and demand our right and our children’s right to read.