**The following article is my opinion only.
One of my most powerful and passionate beliefs is that we should NOT ban books. I understand and support everyone’s right to disagree with a subject matter, the point of view of a character, or a topic in the book. I support their right to be vocal about it. I may not like what they say but it’s their right to say it.
But I don’t support banning books.
We aren’t there yet, at least not in the most frightening version of governments banning books. But in my view, we’re on a slippery slope. Some schools, and other agencies, are removing books. Again, to be clear, this is not the same thing as governments banning books. So let’s not overstate it. I see people doing this and it’s not helpful. Stop being hysterical and calling a puppy a wolf, okay? But right now, I believe this is a slippery slope that could lead to banning books.
I read “To Kill A Mockingbird” when I was about 10, and it was my first experience with racism. Or more specifically, systemic racism that is woven in the very fabric of society’s beliefs and government institutions. At the time, I didn’t have the language or life experience to frame it in those words. But I could grasp hatred based on skin color, and I knew it was wrong.
That fictional story set in an all too real moment in our history helped me learn and grow. The impact of that one book had more to do with shaping my views on how we should treat all people than any protest or outcry since. It allowed me to see the destructive power of hatred through the child-character Scout’s eyes, and to understand that hatred must be fought against.
Right now, the book has been removed from some reading lists. Again that’s not banning, and it may just be shifting the reading curriculum with the times. Or it may not. I’m not sure yet. Are we are replacing that book with another well-written story that will teach some of the less savory parts of our history and expand our worlds along with our critical thinking skills? Or are we pretending it didn’t happen?
That’s why I view removing books from school libraries and reading lists as a concerning slippery slope. History has shown us how dangerous these actions can be. Banning books is a way to silence and control the population. Controlling books is controlling information. Now, I realize our world has changed, and we live on information superhighways. Unfortunately, many of our highways are built on misinformation, or not given proper context which is crucial for understanding difficult, and sometimes painful, topics.
But books have a special ability to give more in-depth context to ideas. That’s one of the things that makes fiction so compelling. We not only explore ideas, but the execution of those ideas in the lives of characters, along with the consequences. We experience it through the character’s emotional journey as they pursue their goals. We feel their joy of success and the agony of their mistakes or defeat. We root for them as they strive to repair or overcome mistakes, or fight against unjustness. We are invested enough cry real tears.
Books are powerful, and controlling which books are accessible is what dictators or other repressive regimes have done over and over. I sincerely hope we get off this slippery slope and stop yelling about books. Stop being afraid of them. Instead, read with our children. Look, parents, if you object to a book and don’t want your child to read it, I support you. It’s your right as the parent.
But it’s not your right to tell other parents what they can let their child read. I let my kids read most of the books they wished, but if I had concerns, I read it too. I was a much faster reader, and we talked about the book. I was actively shaping their impressions and reactions, and guiding them within the frame of our values.
Leave the decision on what to read to the individual adult, or the parents. Not the agencies or governments. We must never get to a place where we let fear and or hatred drive us into banning books.