Banned Book List: A book that has been removed from the shelf of a library or school– American Library Association
In other words, books that parents and teachers decide aren’t suitable for children and teens to read.
But at their core, banned book lists just restrict what teenagers and kids can read.
And I hate that.
I hate that so much.
Reading books is like a portal to another world. That’s the reason why we all love it so much. Reading about other’s experiences and perspectives encourages empathy and acceptance, things that we should be advocating for with kids and teens.
And beyond that even, I fully believe in freedom of speech and thought. You’re not “protecting” kids by not letting them read a book because YOU feel like it’s not appropriate. Reading novels also encourages critical thinking, enabling the reader to make their own ideas and opinions based on what they read in the text (a pretty important skill to have).
And I want to make it clear. When I say appropriate, I am not talking about a 9 year old and Six of Crows.
I’m talking about high school and middle school parents and teachers removing books like The Hate U Give and To Kill A Mockingbird (2 of the most challenged books) from the library because they decide they’re not right for the students.
For obvious reasons, you can’t give a sexually explicit novel to an 11 year old. However, I don’t think that other parents, teachers or librarians should be making that choice for other parents and their kids. The decisions surrounding the media kids consume should be handled by them and their parents, depending on the child’s maturity and sensitivity levels. A couple people can’t decide what hundreds of children get to read, or not read.
And a lot of the “reasons” for banning books are just messed up and a way to push prejudice onto kids.
For example, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is 4th on the most popular banned book list of the ALA website. Speak is the story of a teenage girl who was raped by an upperclassmen, and her journey of speaking up for herself. This book was banned because it was supposedly biased against men, and it included rape and profanity.
This is wrong on so many levels.
Feminism, is not anti-men. Supporting victims of sexual assault and rape, is not anti-men and I’m so sick of people acting like it is. And also, rape and sexual assault are unfortunately, not that rare. It’s crucial for young people (especially girls, but this includes everyone) to know what sexual assault/harassment is so that they can identify it themselves.
The most common reasons why a YA or MG book is banned is because of its representations of violence, abortion, swearing, sex, mental illness, racism and the LGBTQ+ community.
As I’ve mentioned up above, I don’t believe in parents “sheltering” their children from mental illness, racism, queerness, swearing or anything like that.
Because guess what, people? We live in the real world, where people aren’t straight, and swear, and experience racism, and battle depression and anxiety.
All the Bright Things by Jennifer Niven was on multiple banned book lists because of the fact that a main character dealt with a mental illness. I fully understand that for some people, books with mental illness could be triggering, but mental illness is a real issue. It’s important to be educated and empathize.
And some people don’t want to read about some of the things listed above, and that’s fine. You should be able to read what you want to read, and what you’re comfortable with. Not what your parents tell you to read, or tell you not to read. If you don’t want to read about violence, you don’t need to. If you live for that action, then who are they to tell you not to enjoy it?
I’ve just listed a couple in this list, but there are so many important reads on banned book lists. I encourage you to research some yourself and make your own opinions about them (Emily @ Frappes & Fiction read 10 banned books and discussed them!).
So in conclusion, I believe that reading books and engaging with different ideas is so important to do, encouraging critical thinking, empathy and acceptance. Everyone should be able to come to terms with their own opinions and thoughts on texts. This means that parents and teachers shouldn’t be prohibiting books based off of their opinions.
This is a topic I’ve been meaning to write about for a while, so I hope I conveyed everything authentically! Thanks to my friend (if you’re reading this, hi!!) for giving me feedback on my draft since I’m not to used to talking about more controversial topics.