A Story for Everyone

Banned Books Week is more important than ever

Why the fervid school board meetings and protests at public libraries? Why the angry parents shouting; why the grim politicians demanding action? Are they protesting the increase in school shootings? No, there is a different agenda brewing.

Banned Books Week 2023 starts October and this data from the American Library Association should alarm us:

Between January 1 and August 31, 2023, OIF reported 695 attempts to censor library materials and services and documented challenges to 1,915 unique titles – a 20% increase from the same reporting period in 2022, which saw the highest number of book challenges since ALA began compiling the data more than 20 years ago.

Almost all targets of these recent book bans involve LGBTQ+ characters or people of color. Almost every person or group pushing for the bans is politically motivated or connected to a political group.

As PEN America puts it:

Again, and again, the movement to ban books is driven by a vocal minority demanding censorship. At the same time, a 2022 poll found that over 70% of parents oppose book banning. Yet the bans continue. Many public school districts find themselves in a bind. They face threats and political pressure, along with parental fears and anxieties surrounding the books on their school shelves.

The general argument is that books with LGBTQ+ and racial subjects cause harm to children. Legislators, teachers, and librarians are trying to handle these demands with some nuance. Is the material too graphic for certain ages? That’s a valid concern and nearly no one disagrees with it. However, many books with LGBTQ+ themes deal with self-realization and acceptance, and those books should not be automatically grouped with books meant for older audiences.

Why read any books with LGBTQ+ characters? You will better understand them and what they face in life. This is the value of these books and all books exploring lives of people beyond our immediate experience, whether that means ideas from different cultures and religions or races. It’s a large part of growing as a human being and existing in a varied and changing world. It’s why we read; it’s why we teach.