Book Bans Spiking in School Districts Throughout the U.S. – 10 Books that are in the Hot Seat
Book Bans in the US Are Nothing New
Typically, when people hear the words "book ban," they envision copious piles of novels being set on fire by mobs of angry rioters. However, the current act of "banning books" ignites a fire in a completely different way.
As a Nineties kid, it wasn't uncommon to hear the mixed chatter surrounding the consistently challenged Harry Potter series. I was only seven years old when The Sorcerer's Stone hit book stores, so it didn't become a subject of interest for my classmates and me until a few years later. This tale of magical spells, fantastical beasts, and children fighting off villainous wizards either incited excitement or the tightening of parental controls.
There was a clear line drawn between my classmates who vigorously devoured chapters by flashlight after their parents tucked them in, and those who pretty much considered "Hogwarts" a terrible swear word.
My love of reading and controversial books followed me into my high school AP Literature class where we read Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. I craved the class discussion that followed each chapter as we analyzed the beautifully written story of Pecola and her maddening desire for blue eyes in the midst of being abused by her father. And in my own teenage uncertainty, I found myself relating to the young girl's desire of wanting to change her appearance for the sake of feeling more lovable. The in-depth discussion with my classmates, even when mulling over the more difficult plot lines of the novel, provoked thoughts that built worldly perspective, empathy, and a push to look at my own developing self-image.
Books like Morrison's were eye-opening and led to some of the most important conversations of my academic career. Plus, there was the added fun of reading a book that was deemed "forbidden" by so many places.
Book Banning and Curriculum Changes in 2022
Now, across the country, legislators and school administrators are seeing a spike in efforts to prohibit certain materials from being available in libraries. As a result, books that explore topics such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and other social issues are being targeted. The American Library Association received over 330 reports in the last year alone, containing multiple books that are being challenged all over the U.S.
On February 1, 2022, the Indiana Senate passed a bill that will remove materials deemed “harmful” from school libraries. Not only will the bill restrict students from accessing these materials, but it will also allow the criminal prosecution of school librarians and other school staff who circulate these materials. Senate Bill 17 will move on to the House for a vote.
“Material harmful to minors. Removes schools and certain public libraries from the list of entities eligible for a specified defense to criminal prosecutions alleging: (1) the dissemination of material harmful to minors; or (2) a performance harmful to minors. Adds colleges and universities to the list of entities eligible for a specified defense to criminal prosecutions alleging: (1) the dissemination of material harmful to minors; or (2) a performance harmful to minors.” -Senate Bill 17
More so, the proposed Indiana House Bill 1134, would allow parents to request an alternative assignment for any required reading in their children's school curriculum that may cause them discomfort. The bill, which passed in the House in January, will go on to the Indiana Senate for a vote.
In Kentucky, a school district in Floyd County removed certain books from their curriculum after parents expressed concern over the content their children were reading.
One parent, Tonia Fugate, pushed for the removal of the school’s curriculum stating her fifth-grade daughter was reading stories on subjects that she couldn’t understand and that “robbed them of their innocence.”
In response to the concerns, Superintendent Anna Shepard released a statement that addressed reviewing reading materials within the district’s curriculum.
“First and foremost, we want parents to understand that our teachers and administrators, as well as our board members, do not advocate using any material that is inappropriate for children. Our focus with this and any reading curriculum is the standards and the skills that students must master to become better readers.”
The challenges of certain books have ignited book bans across the country. In Texas, state representative Matt Krauss added more than 800 books to their watch list, while in Oklahoma, Senate Bill 1142 was filed to prohibit school districts from allowing books that contain content pertaining to sexual nature of any kind.
In a statement published on their website, the American Library Association asserts that it is parents’ responsibility to determine what materials their children can access and not the duty of libraries to keep particular books out of their collections simply because minors will have access to them.
“School and public libraries are charged with the mission of providing services and resources to meet the diverse interests and informational needs of the communities they serve. Services, materials, and facilities that fulfill the needs and interests of library users at different stages in their personal development are a necessary part of providing library services and should be determined on an individual basis. Equitable access to all library resources and services should not be abridged based on chronological age, apparent maturity, educational level, literacy skills, legal status, or through restrictive scheduling and use policies.”
Is Book Banning What's Best for Young Readers?
The act of banning books is one that is not new to American culture and is certainly not one disappearing anytime soon. Is it what's best for our youth? There's no right answer - only an everchanging landscape of new material that is deemed both essential to shed light on the darkest of subjects and unacceptable for young minds.
Books that Have Recently Been Challenged in School Systems Across the US