I used to post about banned books every year, and felt I might have run out of words on it. But in light of unprecedented pushes to censor, challenge, and remove books from various public places over the last year, from libraries, to schools, to bookstores, here I am again.
I am all for thinking critically about the books we choose to consume. I even think books that a factually wrong probably don't need to be readily available. But that's not what's happening. As the books available and read by kids provide access to stories about a wider array of people, a small but vocal group of people are trying to make access to these stories hard.
Rudine Sims Bishop talked about books being windows, mirrors, and doors, and these folks are trying to limit the number of doors, make the mirrors only mirrors for some people.
And it sucks. It sucks for teacher, librarians, and booksellers who are already underpaid, underfunded, and busy.
It sucks for authors who wrote those books (see also underpaid, busy, etc).
And it sucks for kids. Limiting kid's access to books won't prevent them from becoming who they are, but it may teach them that reading is boring, and/or books are only about one kind of person.
I was lucky enough at my big age to go to a school where the required reading included authors of color, and non-Christian protagonists. Nothing makes me sadder than talking to kids about the books they are reading and discovering some of them are still getting the exact same or even a more limited required reading list. Some books are classics for sure, but there are so many books, and the idea that they aren't encouraged to read anything from this millennium is not only sad, it's a disservice to them.
Also, all the arguments are crap. Yeah, I said it. I had to read Shakespeare plays. (Not a complaint!) Which means I read about sex, murder, war, and non-consensual drugging, to name a few things. No one seems to think that's harmful. So how is reading about a kid wanting to star in the school play harmful? (It is not harmful. Also, I am referencing the delightful Melissa here.) And yes Melissa is also about a character finding ways to express to folks their gender identity. But that comes up in Shakespeare too. And again, I notice Shakespeare is not on the top of the challenges list and Melissa is.
Am I suggesting Shakespeare is bad? Nope. Just that the arguments are flimsy. And look, I did a buddy read with my brother one summer when he had summer reading and told him I super hated the book he had to read. Hated. But we read it and talked about it.
Any parent who wants to instill values like, don't murder the king when he comes to visit, in their kid, absolutely should. (That's a Shakespeare reference by the way.) But banning books because they reflect people you want to pretend don't exist, is crap.