You would think banning books, denying people their basic right to free speech, would be an easy question to answer. Yet, in the Year of Our Lord 2022, parents, teachers, other adults, and even librarians still think it is their God-given right to “protect” children from “dangerous” books.
Do I think banning books is fair? Absolutely not.
Books are banned from school or public libraries for various reasons: sexual content, language, religious reasons, etc. While these topics can make people uncomfortable, everyone is different. Some people can go in blind, others might require the trigger warnings. But deciding what everyone should and is allowed to read is not fair. Silencing some people’s voices and experiences, as well as taking away the choices of others to read those stories, is wrong. By banning or challenging books, you are ignoring those who had their innocence already taken away from them.
Should students be allowed to read what they want and be able to get it from their school library? If they can play Fortnite, watch Netflix, and read fan fiction on Archive of Our Own, chances are they have seen or read worse. So, yes, they should be allowed to borrow what books they want from their school library. Or their public library, for that matter.
The library is meant to be a safe, free space to explore ideas. If a parent does not want their child to read a certain book(s), that is their business. Although, that sort of mindset is problematic in of itself. While parents want to pass on their own values and beliefs to their children, they should also encourage said children to be their own people. Children should be allowed to read, learn, ask questions, and explore different ideas. Even if the opinions are different from what the parents are trying to impose.
Regardless, ultimately parents cannot/should not control what the library can or cannot have in the stacks, or what other parents should be allowed to let their children read. Plus, making it forbidden usually makes kids want to read it more.
In a more broad sense, how do I feel about books that have been “banned?” They are books.
Some I have enjoyed, like The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I loved the writing, the world-building, and characters. In those books and others I enjoyed, the author’s message came across brilliantly. On the flip side, there are some I disliked, or even hated. Except it was not because of the content. With The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, I did not like writing. With Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, I had trouble connecting to the protagonist. Ironically enough, Catcher in the Rye is a favorite of my friends who are not big readers. So, not everyone reads the same book.
Do I think that it’s a crime to ban a book, no matter what it contains, or are there cases where it’s alright? In case you could not tell by now, I think banning books is a crime.
More often than not, banning or challenging books is a misguided attempt by parents to “protect” their kids from things they do not understand or they think the subject matter might be too dark. I can understand why a book like Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson might make parents nervous. Granted, I would not recommend it for a fourth grader to read. But I do not think that a middle schooler can’t handle it. Although, every kid is different and the parents should be a support system they turn to when they want to discuss a book that upsets them.
Then again, sometimes banning or challenging books is the adults’ attempt to outright silence groups they do not agree with or expose their children to new ideas. Children are their own people, but sometimes it is hard for parents to encourage that. It is the librarians and schools’ responsibility to keep track of what goes into their stacks. They are the ones better suited to pick books appropriate for their young patrons.
Books do not have an “age.” That said, you cannot expect children to read and comprehend books for adults before they are ready. Those are few and far between, though. No one can decide what children are ready to handle, even parents and teachers, but the children themselves.