Forbidden Book Week, which ran from September 26 to October 2, was a good time to highlight how widespread the problem of literary censorship is.
Unfortunately, some schools still have to deal with the questioning of books. In some cases, these school districts are considering banning books from their libraries. Literature that is controversial or that the authorities want to hide from students is often prohibited. Especially in schools, books are disputed and banned far too often.
Recently, the Central York School District banned – or, in their words, “frozen” – a list of books until they were further reviewed by the district. Most of the prohibited content was created or portrayed by people of color and other minorities. The books were said to have been challenged due to parents’ concerns that white children might feel guilty about their race. Some parents feared that keeping the books in circulation would create further divisions in the district. In addition, the school had recently discontinued a social studies program focused on the Black Lives Matter movement and “other racial justice literature.”
After public outcry and national media coverage, the Central York School Board overturned the ban on September 20.
Some parents and educators argue that they are only acting to prevent children from being exposed to things they are not ready for. While that might be sound reasoning, deleting particular books is not the way to pursue it.
The question is not whether adults in these situations have the best interests of the students in mind, but whether they realize how much they are depriving their children of perspective by restricting their access to books.
“Young readers need to see diverse representations in their reading materials in order to better understand the world around them,” said Lesley Colabucci, associate professor of early, middle and exceptional education at Millersville University.
If the experiences of various cultures in literature are blocked, students will not have empathy for all cultures. The sooner society realizes that children need access to a variety of books to understand their world, the better off we will all be.
Without this knowledge, children will be less sensitive to the cultures of the world and less able to act appropriately in certain situations.
Rather than restricting books, we as a society should encourage children to read age appropriate literature. Additionally, many students are willing to tackle difficult topics before their peers and can decide for themselves what they can handle. While some topics can be uncomfortable, they provide valuable learning opportunities. This discomfort is necessary for children to discover and define their own limits.
It seems likely that many of these controversies stem from fear.
As Berks County author and intellectual freedom advocate Amy Sarig King said, “It comes from a place of fear. … Is this really how we want to run our schools and our world? From a place of fear? “
As a society, it is crucial that we allow children to experience the whole of the world, not just the part that is idealistic.
And while fear is understandable, we cannot let it rule us. If we do, we risk eliminating entire cultures and experiences simply by refusing to discuss them.
Shayna Finkelstein is in the 11th grade at the lycée in the canton of Manheim.