Feeling secure in the fact that they will freely have access to all of the world’s information and literature, students should be able to enter libraries without the worry of censorship. However, because many schools and libraries have lengthy lists of banned books, students do have such worries – which is a problem we, as a society, should amend.
According to the American Library Association, the organization tracks book challenges and brings them to the public’s attention. The ALA recorded 354 reported book challenges in the United States. The majority of these challenges result in the removal of the books from the school or library.
Often made by patrons, parents and political or religious groups, these challenges are primarily made due to perceived sexually explicit content, offensive language or are deemed “unsuitable to any age group.”
Taking offense to something is all about a single person’s perception and should not be the basis to what information the general public should be allowed access to. A parent restricting their own child from a book is one thing, but for that parent to have that book removed from their school and local library is another.
Those students’ parents are now restricting everyone from that book due to their own personal beliefs. And isn’t the entire basis of the United States the right to liberty and happiness?
Chelsea Condren’s article, “Why Do We Ban Books, Anyway?” said it best, stating that the act of banning books is purely a personal act.
“Banning books is about individuals who believe they have the right to decide how we think what we see, and especially about individuals who believe they are protecting our children by attempting to bar them from reading certain books,” Condren wrote. “The power and danger in book banning lies in someone’s ability to think their opinion is the only one that matters, and, thereby, the only one that is allowed.”
Plus, the books that are oftentimes banned are those that help readers get a better idea of the world and their place in it. The ASL believes that banning certain books because they are construed to not be age appropriate would deprive students of essential cultural and historical knowledge along with differing world views.
Books that have long been considered to be required reading in schools due to their educational prowess are being challenged and banned all over the United States. These books are cultural, historical and thought-provoking. This is limiting the knowledge and abilities of the students who are restricted from them.
Not only does banning books limit a student’s access to knowledge, but it limits their empathy and socio-emotional developments. A study published by the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that reading J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series is frequently challenged for religious concerns about witchcraft, “improved attitudes” about immigrants, homosexuals and refugees.
Author of the frequently challenged novel “Neverwhere,” Neil Gaiman believes that fiction is a reader’s gateway to their emotions and their relatability.
“Fiction build[s] empathy… You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well,” Gaiman wrote for The Guardian. “You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed. Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.”
In 2017, my junior year of high school at Fullerton High School, my English teacher assigned “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood to my class. The novel contains a multitude of F-bombs and somewhat graphic depictions of sex, violence and sexual violence. Many of my classmates and I loved it. Many parents did not.
After we read the book and begun our assignments regarding the novel, many parents went to our teacher and the principal in hopes of getting the novel banned from our curriculum. Once word got around that this beloved book of ours would soon be gone, we rallied and created a petition for protecting our and future students’ right as seekers of knowledge and as citizens of the United States to read the novel.
Our petition worked and the students of Fullerton High School are still able to read “The Handmaid’s Tale.” With this victory in mind I would like to call upon you, dear reader, to speak up and to challenge those who wish to challenge your right to literature and to help younger students who may not have the voice to challenge, but will benefit all the same.