“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
– Haruki Murakami
If you have seen the news recently, you’ve likely seen the headlines about the effort to ban books across the country. Book banning, which is a form of censorship, occurs when private individuals, government officials, or organizations remove books from libraries, school reading lists, or bookstore shelves because they do not agree with the content being portrayed in the books. Advocates for book banning fear that their children will be swayed by its contents, which they have mentioned they have seen as potentially dangerous.
The American Library Association reported that they have received an “unprecedented” 330 reports of book challenges to ban books. Parents, activists, school board officials, and lawmakers around the country are challenging books at a pace not seen in decades. Kids are starting to get the message that their identity is not acceptable, whether it’s race, gender, or sexuality.
Reasons advocates are wanting to ban books is because they see this as an issue of parental rights and choice, that parents should be able to decide what their own children are reading. With it being social work month this March and from the view of an intern social worker, making a book unavailable creates a lack of equal access to information for a diverse audience. This can be the equivalent of trying to violate the rights of other parents and the rights of children who believe that access to these books is important. By advocates banning these books, we are removing the possibility for conversation on these topics of race, gender, and sexuality.
Here at L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, our mission is to promote lifelong learning, create collaborative spaces, and support open access to diverse materials and resources to enhance the quality of life in the community. The library also promotes intellectual freedom. We strive to provide resources and programs that offer a wide variety of viewpoints on a broad range of topics, we promote access to enhance learning to ensure open access to information for all.
All in all, it is okay to be uncomfortable. Discomfort provides an opportunity to grow intellectually when we check our irrational thoughts. It is important for people of all ages to have these difficult conversations. Without these conversations, it is harmful to our society and it can ultimately lead to ignorance. Seeking discomfort allows us to improve our performance, creativity, and learning in the long run.
Some states that are trying to ban books in school/public libraries:
Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Some of the books being challenged in 2022:
- Maus by Art Spiegelman
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
- The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones
These lists of states and challenged books were compiled from several different resources, including the American Library Associations Banned and Challenged Books page, and articles from The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Book Riot. Check out the links for more in-depth discussion of current book banning in the United States.