Book Bans Are Never About Protecting Kids

Christine Horner, copy editor

Did you have a favorite book when you were a child? Can you recall the fun pictures? Or maybe your favorite was a chapter book – a novel about other children and their adventures. Reading this book must have filled you with immense joy – and you’re not the only person to have had this experience. Researchers at the University of Cambridge discovered that when children read regularly for pleasure, their cognitive function and mental health improve. However, improved cognitive function and mental health are apparently being taken off the table for many American children as the country is seeing a massive increase in book bans in public schools. According to CNN, just this school year has seen 33% more books banned from the classrooms. 

What is especially ironic to me is that many of these bans are introduced by politicians, parents and school board members – people who are meant to put children first. However, protecting children is the exact reason these people give for the bans. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis proposed that the books banned in his state were “pornographic” and, thus, unsuitable for children. These bans are currently most prevalent in Florida, which accounts for 40% of the books banned across the country. Unfortunately, other states are not immune to these bans – Minnesota even harbors districts that have enacted book bans. 

The claim that books are being banned to protect children is outrageous, especially considering that many of these books center LGBTQ+ and/or BIPOC characters. According to PEN America, “40% of the books banned contain a prominent character of color.” How are BIPOC children meant to feel when they discover that books about people like them are “off-limits?” It’s ridiculous to think that just existing as a non-white child means your existence is immediately an attack on someone’s political beliefs. Additionally, 30% of the banned books feature queer characters. What are queer kids supposed to think when books about their identities are being taken off shelves? Book-banning legislation clearly is not about helping any children, it’s intended to white wash public schools and suppress students’ self-expression.

On top of this, teachers who fight back lose their jobs. A Texas middle-school teacher fell victim to book banners after teaching a graphic novel about Anne Frank to her eighth graders. Even though the book had not yet been banned in her district at the time she assigned it, she was still fired because the book contained information about female reproductive and sexual organs. Call me a radical but this sounds like an attack on women, people with uterus’ and on Holocaust victims and survivors! America is referred to as a “melting pot of culture”, but cultures that are not white, Christian, cisgender and heterosexual are not allowed to freely show themselves.

Book bans pose both an immediate and long-term threat to not just the well-being of American children but also to the country as a whole. As cliche as this sounds, today’s children are, quite literally, our future. Perhaps instead of teaching them that certain materials are “bad,” we should educate them about how to grapple with content that is new to them or that makes them uncomfortable. And minority kids deserve to be seen and heard, not further alienated through book bans.