Since the first book was banned ever in 1637, the demands to ban books have been on the rise in America. What started out as a way to protect readers, specifically children, has now taken an extreme right turn for the worst.
What does it mean to ban books:
According to the First Amendment Encyclopedia, it is when books that challenge the norm or reality are removed from bookshelves, libraries, and school reading lists by private individuals (working alone), government officials, and organizations. Those who protest banning books do so out of fear the books might manipulate a child.
Even so, I found in most cases it is the reality of adults not being ready to face the hard questions about identity and race. It is the fear of books being able to “present ideas, raise questions, and incite critical inquiry” (Webb 2009) that go against the adult’s belief.
States where books are being banned:
Since the first book ever to be banned in America, “New English Canaan” by Thomas Morton in 1637, all states have banned at least one book. However, states like Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania are in the lead. Texas has banned nearly 801 books in 22 school districts; Florida is in second place with 566 books banned in 21 school districts; and Pennsylvania with 457 book bans in 11 school districts.
To find out how many books have been banned in your state check out: pen.org
“It represents an escalation, and we’re truly fearful that at some point we will see a librarian arrested for providing constitutionally protected books on disfavored topics”Deborah Caldwell-Stone, library association director of the office of intellectual freedom. Originally published on The NY Times
Librarians who are fighting against the bans are being met with backlash and disrespect for their nature; continuously being called a “pedophiles” and a “groomers.” In Jamestown Charter Township, MI their only library, Patmos Library, is being forced to shut down for not removing an LGBTQ+ book — Gender Queer: A Memoir — off the shelf. The Patmos Library lost 84% of its funding after a tax levy failed back in August 2022. It failed for the second time after a November 10th vote.
In the same state, Republican Tudor Dixon accused Michigan schools of providing “pornogrphic” books. As Amanda Marcotte wrote, a journalist for the Salon, these books include “anything from actual sex education books to books that simply have sex scenes;” the Bible being one of them. Along with wanting to put a ban on books depicting divorce because a child shouldn’t have to learn about it.
What contents are being banned?
For the past years LGBTQ+, POC as main characters (whether facing discrimination or not), sexual content (including, but not limited to, sex education), and addressing race and racism have become the target of removal or challenge. Of the books being banned or challenged: 75% are fiction; 49% are young adult books; 19% are picture books; 11% middle grade with another 11% being adult; and 10% are chapter books.
Book banned by content:
- LGBTQ + depiction: 41% (674 books)
- POC who are main or secondary character: 40% (659 books)
- Sexual content: teenage pregnancies, assault, abortion, sex ed: 22% (659 books)
- Addressing issues of race and racism: 21% (338 books)
To view other banned contents click, pen.org
Did you know, between 2021 and 2022, roughly 2,500 books were banned in 138 schools across 32 states?
Banned and challenged children’s books:
- “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
- “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson
- “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B White
- “Where’s Waldo” by Martin Handford
- “Harriet the Spy” by Louise Fitzhugh
- “Drama” by Raina Telgemeier
- “Henry’s Freedom Box” by Ellen Levine and Katie Nelson
- “Goosebumps: Retro Scream Collection” by R.L Stine
- “I am Jazz” by Jessica Hershel
- “Hop on Pop” by Dr. Seuss
- “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’engle
- The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling
- “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S Lewis
Some were not banned in all states, schools, or libraries
Banned and challenged Young Adult (YA) books:
- “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury (ironic)
- “We Are the Ants” by Shaun David Hutchinson
- “The Giver” by Lois Lowery
- “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls
- “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher
- “The Kingdom of Little Wounds” by Susann Cokal
- “Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor
- “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson
- “The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas
- “Beloved” by Toni Morrison
- “The Handmade’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
- “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
- “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson
- “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan
- “Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell
- “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green
- “The Catcher in The Rye” by J.D. Salinger
Some were not banned in all states, schools, or libraries
To check out more banned books, visit: 50 most banned books in america; children’s books that are banned; kids books have been banned or challenged and Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged books: 2010-2019
“The same people who are complaining about their first amendments being violated are the same people who are banning books.”Charlese Market, educator and parent.
Organizations such as Moms for Liberty, No Left Turn in Education, United States Parent, and local FaceBook groups (just to name a few) have been protesting and very much active in censoring readership. Arguments like the ones made by Greenville County, South Carolina Councilor Joe Dill, “Protect the innocence of children” and the claim it elicits “grooming” made by pro-banner parents and some who HAVE NO children have been passed as valid arguments.
In reality — books do not groom— they inform.
We live in a world where predators can be our next door neighbors or worse — in our family — under our roof. Children have access to the internet, smartphones and tablets at their discretion (granted by parents). We all know and should know how vulnerable children are to online pornography and predators disguised as children on social media. According to the Children Rescue Coalition, roughly 3,294 children have been rescued with only 14, 322 predators being arrested. Only 14,322 predators out of the thousands more hiding on the web. The organization has also noted before the age of 18 years old, one in five girls will be experience sexual assault; with one in 20 being boys. What makes this more challenging, 85% of “online predators are hands-on abusers of children.” Therefore, books are not predators.
So why is the attention not on controlling and finding ways to protect children from online predators? Why is it so centered on books that can prove to be educational, support system, and most importantly, build empathy?
When reading through the list of banned books, I found plenty that I have grown up with as a child and enjoyed reading (still till this day). As a child, it was emphasized to read a book, while most were boring to me, I found pleasure in R.L Stine. It was books like the Goosebumps collection and Fear Street that got me through the years and finding my love for creative writing.
Many forget books like “Speak, The Hate You Give”, and “All Boys Aren’t Blue” have representation many children deeply need.
For example, Speak is about a high school girl who was sexually assaulted and struggled to find her voice after all that had happened. She is an example — a reflection — of the survivors who struggle to regain the pieces of their life. Personally, I read the book five times, in middle school leading into high school. I, myself, was able to see from a perspective other than my own and I thank Laurie Halse- Anderson, along with many other authors, for their contribution to my understanding of the world.
“All of us worry about our children. I worry because my child has been subjected to hate and discrimination”Susan Ward, a parent. Originally told The State
These books help to create an understanding of what another might be going through. There should not be a ban just because of one’s beliefs or restrictions on their own child.
There are many organizations (to name a few) in the fight alongside, librarians, to stop bans and keep books on the shelves:
- Baker & Taylor
- Human Rights Campaign
- Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
- Freedom to Read Foundation
- Penguin Random House
- Simon & Schuster
There are always options:
Instead of banning books, parents should have the right to read through and make suggestions to the school reading list before they are distributed to the classroom. If a parent denies the books being taught to their child, there should be an attempt to compromise.
Many librarians already reiterated that younger youths are monitored when they check out books, so parents need to trust the librarians. After all — they did undergo a master’s degree to work behind shelves of books.
Everyone can agree parents have the right to know what their youths are being taught. On the other hand, removing books permanently off school shelves is taking it too far. Parents should not control what children (in general) should and should not read.
Alter, A., & Harris, E. A. (n.d.). Attempts to Ban Books Are Accelerating and Becoming More Divisive. The New York Time.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/16/books/book-bans.amp
Child Rescue Coalition. (n.d.). Child Rescue Coalition. https://childrescuecoalition.org/
Marcotte, A. (2022, October 28). Michigan GOP candidate Tudor Dixon wants a new book ban: No divorced characters. Salon. https://www.salon.com/2022/10/28/michigan-candidate-tudor-dixon-wants-a-new-book-ban-no-divorced-
More than 25 organizations join forces with the American Library Association to Unite Against Book Bans. (2022, May 9). American Library Association.
Movement to Censor Books in Schools. (2022, September 19). PEN America. https://pen.org/report/banned-usa-growing-movemen-to-censor-books-in-schools/
Martin, J. (n.d.). The 50 most banned books in America. CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/the-50-most-banned-books-in-america/
Pendharkar, E. (n.d.). Who’s Behind the Escalating Push to Ban Books? A New Report Has Answers.Education Week.
Riddle, L. (n.d.). This SC county to keep LGBTQ themed books in children’s library after emotional meeting Read more at:
Scholastic Parents Staff. (2022, August 3). Groundbreaking Children’s Books That Have Been Challenged or Banned. Scholastic.
Shhhh! These Kid’s Books Have Been Banned (or Challenged). (n.d.). Evanston Public Library. https://www.epl.org/booklist/shhhh-these-kids-books-have-been-banned-o
Sutcliffe, A. (2022, August 30). 28 Banned Books That Every Kid Needs to Read. Tiny Beans https://tinybeans.com/kids-books-and-childrens-books-that-are-banned-books/
Stein, E. (2022, November 10). Only library in Michigan town to close after voters defund it for refusing to ban LGBTQ books. USA Today.https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2022/11/10/lgbtq-books-library-mi-defunded-jamestown/8323736001/
The little-known history of banned books in the United States. (2020, September 28).Reading Partners.https://readingpartners.org/blog/history-banned-books-week/
This Heartbreaking Speech Blake Lively Gave on Child Sexual Exploitation is a Must Watch (VIDEO).(2018, May 16). Fight The New Drug. https://fightthenewdrug.org/blake-lively-speech-against-child-exploitation/
Webb, S. L. (2009). Book Banning. In The First Amendment Encyclopedia. https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/986/book-banning