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Banning Banned Books

                Public schools throughout the United States continue to have one debate. The problem of appropriate books in schools has been going on for many years. Parents contact their local school boards and argue their case to ban a specific book from school libraries. These happen for many different reasons with a similar result. Important books are banned from school libraries, never to be taught by educators or read by children on school property. Coupled with a growing literacy problem, children in the United States are left to read books at their library that they either can’t connect with or can’t understand. Today, let’s look at why book bans are happening and how they affect the children who read them.


            Book banning in the United States came to a high in 2022. Hillel Italie reported on the problem of book bans for the Associated Press. The article features an interview with the director of the American Library Association, Deborah Caldwell-Stone. Hillel Italie reported, “The ALA has documented 681 challenges to books through the first eight months of this year, involving 1,651 different titles” (Italie). What Caldwell-Stone notes is that there was a rise in campaigns and organizations that sought out specific books and made a case for banning them without having read the book. The process used to be that a few concerned parents can go to their school board and make a case or “challenge” a book that is in the school’s library or their public library. The book is then reviewed, and the institution acts according to a review from the review board.


            The problem only increased in 2023 across school library boards continuing with broad bans rather than specific books. A study done by PEN America, an organization dedicated to freedom in literature says, “Book bans in public K–12 schools continue to intensify. In the 2022–23 school year, PEN America recorded 3,362 instances of books banned, an increase of 33 percent from the 2021–22 school year” (Pen America). The increase in banned books happened for many reasons involving political organizations and concerned parents who have been given confidence by state politicians to be active in their child(ren)’s education. It is specifically books that involve sensitive topics like race, identity, and violence that parents are afraid will somehow influence their kids. What’s interesting is that there is no evidence to show that children react negatively to certain books over others. If anything, the statistics show a different story.


            A research group called; “First Book” dedicated to reading opportunities for underprivileged youth did a survey. “First Book” found, “In the survey, 72 percent indicated that restricting book access decreases students’ engagement in reading. More than a third of educators noted that book bans discourage students’ critical thinking, and 78 percent reported that students are reading more when given the choice to read banned books” (First Book Staff). The study goes on to imply that the lack of student engagement in reading happens because books that students would be willing to read are being removed from places where they would be able to find it without the ban. While the banned books do have sensitive topics that parents don’t want, the ban restricts students who would have success with the books if they had access to them.


            The research done by “First Book” implies a grim future for readers. When readers don’t have access to books that they can connect with, they can turn away from the enjoyment of reading.  As a result, teachers have a bigger problem with their students when the student(s) can’t connect with the books that have yet to be banned. “First Book” released another survey in 2023 asking educators about the effect of book bans in the classroom. The result showed that teachers felt like they were being undermined by book bans. Robert Kennedy for The Public-School Review notes that, “Banning books can have detrimental effects on students' educational experiences. History has shown that the practice can limit students' exposure to different perspectives, stifle critical thinking, and hinder their understanding of important societal issues” (Kennedy). Not only do book bans affect the students’ ability to connect with books, but book bans also keep students from critical thinking and exposure to different perspectives.


            With all the bad news about book bans, there is some good news. Some students are reacting to the bans in their own ways. Kiara Alfonseca for ABC News reported on a banned books club in a Texas high school. Alfonseca says, “Student-led banned book clubs and anti-censorship groups have been popping up in states where a conservative-led movement to remove certain books or lessons has led to boisterous board meetings, protests, and more. The students behind these groups say they have long been left out of the conversation, despite being the most impacted by such restrictions” (Alfonseca). To see students take control of their own reading material shows that they could not care less about what their parents are worried about. When there is a will to read these banned books, the students have a way. Maybe book banning has a short shelf life.


 


             


 


Here is a link to keep up with the books bans by state and what books are being threatened the most: Censorship by the Numbers | Advocacy, Legislation & Issues (ala.org)


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


Works Cited


Alfonseca, K. (2023, October 2). School culture wars push students to form banned book clubs, anti-censorship groups. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/US/school-culture-wars-push-students-form-banned-book/story?id=103377259


America, P. (2023, October 4). School book bans: The mounting pressure to censor. PEN America. https://pen.org/report/book-bans-pressure-to-censor/


Book, F. (2023a, October 3). New first book study tackles national issue of banned books. First Book. https://firstbook.org/blog/2023/10/03/new-first-book-study-tackles-national-issue-of-banned-books/#:~:text=The%20survey%20found%20that%2071,distrusted%2C%20and%20increases%20their%20stress.


Book, F. (2023b, October 3). New first book study tackles national issue of banned books. First Book. https://firstbook.org/blog/2023/10/03/new-first-book-study-tackles-national-issue-of-banned-books/#:~:text=In%20the%20survey%2C%2072%20percent,choice%20to%20read%20banned%20books.


Chavez, N. (2023, September 21). Book bans continue rising in the US with more targeting “sexual” and “inappropriate” content, Free Speech Group says. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2023/09/21/us/book-ban-increase-pen-america/index.html


Italie, H. (2022, September 16). Book ban efforts surging in 2022, Library Association says. AP News. https://apnews.com/article/libraries-american-library-association-book-banning-af7c9f312266b572c3dc189b1d109de4


Kennedy, R. (2023, October 30). Understanding the consequences of banning books in K-12 Education. Public School Review. https://www.publicschoolreview.com/blog/understanding-the-consequences-of-banning-books-in-k-12-education


John Ramspott from Oxford, GA, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


"Top 13 Most Challenged Books of 2022", American Library Association, April 21, 2023.


http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10 (Accessed January 29, 2024)


Document ID: 5e20bb19-8c8a-4866-a89c-a7feefbe4ff1


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