We should all have an access to a right to read

An event was observed by some this past week that few of us likely were aware of. But it isn’t too late to get enlightened about it.

Banned Books Week is an annual event that celebrates the freedom to read.

Though one would hope we have become more illuminated and such an event has become less necessary over time, it seems, sadly, the opposite is true. According to bannedbooksweek.org, the event was started in 1982 after there was a surge of challenged books in schools, bookstores and libraries. The need has not by any means lessened.

The American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom makes lists of top challenged books each year.

In 2020, the top 10 challenged books were:

“George” by Alex Gino, which was challenged due to LGBTQIA+ content;

“Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds, due to the author’s public statements;

“All American Boys” by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, due to profanity, drug use, alcoholism, anti-police views and divisive topics;

“Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson, due to rape, profanity, being thought to contain a political viewpoint and claims of bias against male students;

“The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, due to profanity, sexual references and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author;

“Something Happened In Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice” by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins and Ann Hazard, due to divisive language and being thought to promote anti-police views;

“To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, due to racial slurs and their effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character and its perception;

“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck, due to racial slurs and racist stereotypes and their negative effect on students;

“The Bluest Eve” by Toni Morrison, due to sexually explicit content and depicting child sexual abuse;

“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, due to profanity and being thought to promote an anti-police message.

Yes, many of the books on this list portray dark and disturbing things. Yes, they are thought- and emotion-provoking. Yes, they expose harsh truths and shine light on division.

Good. We do no one any favors by restricting access to them. Difficult, uncomfortable books are vital. Hiding them away does nothing but take away our freedom to think about the challenges they present. Parents and teachers have a responsibility to teach children to explore, ask questions … think. If we take away access to books — any books; if we turn a blind eye to the challenges they present, we are not helping them. We are doing them immeasurable harm.


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