Discussion: What Do You Think About Banned Book Lists?

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.

What are your thoughts on banned book lists? Leave your thoughts on this post in the comments below!

23 thoughts on “Discussion: What Do You Think About Banned Book Lists?”

  1. wow i like your passion on this and i pretty much feel the same way about banned books. taking away a person’s choice on what they would like to read about is not done at all, and all those “prohibited” topics are ones that exist in the real world and are important to know about.
    thank you for the discussion Ritz!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Banning books is definitely not justified. It isn’t going to work for parents and teachers. We, the teens, are rebellious. By prohibiting the books, you’re just making us more curious. Especially after reading and learning so much about repression in the world.
    Age categories for books I can certainly understand. That’s a requirement. But not on the basis of your personal opinion. Age categories too should come with explicit reasons as it is generally shown in the movies.

    I absolutely loved the post and agree with Rachel. No doubt your passion is visible in the post

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly haha! It’s counteractive, really. When you tell people not to do something, ban them from doing it, it’s just going to make them want to do it more. Age ratings are necessary, and I don’t believe in people deciding what a bunch of others can read. Thank you SO MUCH, Shruvi!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My view is that if a book offends you that much, don’t read it…but don’t ban other people from reading it! Books are important for so many reasons. One, as you rightfully say, they encourage empathy and acceptance, both of which help bridge the gap between different groups of people and help us exist in our wonderfully diverse world. Two, they encourage us to think critically. Even if we don’t agree with an author on a certain topic, by hearing their thoughts, we’re then able to form our own opinions on whatever subject it is they’ve written about. Three, again, as you rightfully say, we live in the real world and it’s important that books make reference to the things that people have to deal with everyday. If books discussing things like sexual assault and mental illness are banned, especially in schools, then it isolates people who have lived through or are currently living through these things. As someone who has been sexually assaulted and is living with a mental illness, books on these subjects have made me realise that I’m not alone and that there is help and support out there. If it weren’t for these books, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

    A fantastic, thought-provoking post ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely! Books and reading are so important, for so many different reasons. Empathy, acceptance, critical thinking . . . They’re all so important and I’m pretty sure the world would be a much better place if we all just had more empathy.

      I’m really sorry that you had to go through those experiences, but I’m glad that books about them have helped you. I’ve read books about things that I could so painfully relate to and they helped me realize that my feelings are valid, and I’m not alone. Thank you so much for your comment, Jazz ❤️


  4. I don’t think my country has ‘banned’ any books that students read, and required reading is not a concept here (at least in my school) but school libraries are so boring because there’s zero diverse books. All English books are the standard white men classics and while there is some variety in the Sinhala books I don’t find them that appealing. But yeah, even though it’s not ‘officially’ banned, books about racism and lgbtq+ issues just don’t appear in libraries and I find that very sad. I wholeheartedly agree that book banning is bad, especially when a book talks about topics deemed ‘controversial’ (when actually they’re real things happening to real people almost every day)
    Great post, I loved reading your thoughts on this topic!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This is such an important topic, I’m glad you brought it up. I agree that book banning isn’t the right thing to do. People should be able to choose what they want to read, without getting told it’s wrong because there’s a certain topic in it. I think especially at the age when kids are becoming old enough and they have that start of independence, they should be able to choose what you want to read. I understand if a kid is 8 and their parents don’t want them reading something sexually explicit or the like, but once they’re old enough, they can decide what their own limits are, not what their parents limits for them are.

    As you said, it gives them a chance to understand other people’s experiences. The world isn’t all good and people need to know that. Letting kids experience it through books is a way for them to learn.

    Thank you for this discussion, Ritz!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ahh thank you so much, Lotus! Book banning doesn’t do any good for anyone. Exactly. From a certain age kids should be able to decide what they can and can’t handle reading, and others shouldn’t be deciding that for them. And yes, learning about others perspectives and experiences is super important.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is such a well-written discussion! I don’t think libraries should ever ban books in general? Schools shouldn’t either but I literally can’t see any reason why a book should be banned from a library. In my opinion, if schools didn’t want children of certain ages to read certain books, they should have lists of the topics contained within said books and it should be up to the individual parent or teenager if they want their kid reading it. Schools shouldn’t dictate the literature children have access to, their job should simply be to inform if there’s something like explicit sex or excessive swearing depending on the age level of the children inside the school imo! I hope that this makes sense because this is becoming one long comment😅

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Loved this post, Ritz, and I agree with everything you said. Banning books is definitely not something that should happen, ever. And that applies to any kind of book. Restricting access to literature and information is restricting freedom and, essentially, indoctrinating people. After all, that’s what all totalitarian regimes have historically done, be it by burning books or banning them, it’s the same result.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I completely agree with you, Ritz! I don’t think banning books is ever okay – you can’t restrict access to a medium just because you think it’s unsuitable; if everyone did that, we would have nothing left to read. Plus, I think that it’s really important that young people get exposed to more controversial topics through fiction, because how are we ever going to get closer to solving these problems if no one speaks about them or even has knowledge on the topic? Besides, children and teenagers aren’t stupid. They can probably judge what they can handle reading a lot better than some random prejudiced adult in a committee somewhere… Although I do think it makes sense to give people some orientation through age categories!

    Liked by 1 person

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