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Books are being banned at massive rates in America right now. Here, you’ll learn exactly why books are being banned, and why they shouldn’t be banned.  Hint: when you ban books, there can be a lot of negative consequences, particularly for younger generations. Keep reading to get informed.

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Status of Book Banning

True story: According to PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans, from the school year of July 2021 to June 2022, a staggering 2,532 books were banned (including 1,648 unique book titles) in public schools and public school libraries in the United States.  According to PEN America, in the 2022 to 2023 school year, that number rose even further to 3,362 book bans (of 1,557 titles).

By contrast, the social media page of the American Library Association’s office has said that only 223 titles were challenged in the U.S.A. in 2020.

book bans in the u.s.a: bar graph of numbers by the year

If you’re wondering why public school board meetings and their school officials have become so heavily involved in book challenges recently, this article explores why, along with everything that’s at stake.

Why Books Are Banned

​Books get banned in middle school and high school curricula for a variety of reasons, often pertaining to different cultures than the local community, as well as diverse experiences and viewpoints, including content with (arguably) offensive language, and/or about sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual assault, people of color, and other sensitive topics.  

PEN America has defined the targets most often as “[a]uthors whose books are targeted are most frequently female, people of color, and/or LGBTQ+.”

According to the American Library Association, the most frequently banned book in 2022 was Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe. (It is the most challenged book for LGBTQIA+ content.)  

Some other controversial books that are most often banned are The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (for depictions of sexual abuse and EDI content) and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (for sexually explicit content and profanity). 

A few more book titles I often hear are banned in lists of books are the New York Times bestseller The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (a “Black Lives Matter” book), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (for racially charged language), and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (which deals with rape).  Even books considered to be children’s books for young readers and/or young adults, like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games.

Often challenging these books to local school boards are religious groups like the Catholic church.  Many times, an especially conservative community group also requests bans. Some common arguments for book bans are that the material is offensive or inappropriate, or that it will indoctrinate children.

Why Books Shouldn’t Be Banned

So, should books be banned from schools? My answer is no. Here’s why:

13 reasons why books shouldn't be banned: 1-7
13 reasons why books shouldn't be banned: 8-13


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Before we talk in more detail about why books shouldn’t be banned, I think it’s important to note that my argument is NOT that we should give young children books that are not age-appropriate. I’m talking about books that are widely considered by experts to be at the reading level for the students to whom they are made available.

Likewise, I’m not necessarily talking about what books should or should not be required reading for students. My argument is more based on what’s available in school libraries. Required reading is a related concept that can be worked around, as I discuss below.

Most Americans don’t want book bans.

The first reason why books shouldn’t be banned is because most Americans don’t support book bans, and democracy is about freedom and the majority.

Here, the minority of sometimes even one complaint is causing the restriction of access to books, as was the case with Amanda Gorman, who authored and recited the poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden.

Books are part and parcel of freedom of speech.

Speaking of freedom, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution offers rights that include free speech, free expression, intellectual freedom, and a free society.

Having these freedoms means that we must co-exist with the freedoms of others, who may be different than us.

And, on the contrary, NOT having these freedoms is undeniably better than a society without them. It’s hard to write this without repeatedly thinking of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai (author of the memoir, I Am Malala), who was shot point-blank by the Taliban for being a female attempting to get an education.

Banned books help students think critically.

The books that are most often banned are exactly the types of books that foster critical thinking. This is because their content is generally “different” in some regard and different things make you think.

You may be thinking, but what if I disagree with what’s said? Well, I’ve often found books with which I disagree to be the ones that made me think most deeply, often for years afterward. They spark a passion that helps me determine exactly where I personally stand on something.

And if, on the other hand, you discover that you DO agree with something new, then you just grew as a person.

Banned books facilitate public discourse.

Public discourse fosters growth on many levels, from government to personal.

When I think of public discourse as it pertains to books, I think back to my political science classes in college, in which we would read a text and then debate it.

Again, this is how we learn and grow. It’s hard to discover yourself without ever being exposed to anything new or different and talking about it.

One of my favorite feelings is consuming words that make me think or say, “I never thought of it that way before.” That type of feeling can incite change.

Banned books provide access to important information.

An extremely important reason why books shouldn’t be banned is because they provide a gateway to information. This can include information that is not accessible any other way to a student, particularly in low-income schools.

Free access to a new book by way of a public library may be both the best and the only resource for information.

I know that, when I have a problem, the first thing I access is quality information to help me solve it, very often through books. On the contrary, living in the dark from helpful information can be incredibly limiting.

Banned books educate and act as helpful learning tools.

We all know that books educate — after all, they remain a primary teaching tool in our highly technological world today.

But, beyond textbooks, one of the best ways to learn is through stories. (Even the Bible contains stories handed down and recorded.)

Stories can make information easier to grasp AND more memorable. They can also provide a lot more context. At the end of the day, they can help a student more readily move from learning something to understanding it.

Banned books can improve physical and mental health.

Books are often banned for containing content that can actually improve students’ health. A book may be touted as sexually explicit when, in reality, it’s actually helping someone learn facts about their bodies.

One particular book that comes to mind is one that impacted me — Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, who is no stranger to book bans. In the book, she wrote about puberty in a way that was both accessible and helpful to teens. And, not only did I learn about my body, but I also felt understood.

There are so many other contexts like this where banned books can be beneficial to students, including discovering their sexual and/or gender identity.

Reading banned books fosters empathy and acceptance.

It’s no secret that reading has innumerable advantages, and this can be especially true when it comes to banned books. This is because banned books often share diverse experiences, and reading about diverse experiences is exactly what helps us become more empathetic and accepting.

We live in a diverse world, and book bans very often silence diverse voices. It’s hard to think of anything that can foster more empathy than reading someone’s story, and it’s hard to think of anything more invalidating than banning it.

​Banned books can inspire students.

Banned books just may be what inspires a student’s future. How do I know? Well, my entire career today is based on falling in love with books at a young age, many of which are banned.

They can help students become advocates and activists, or even choose a niche for their career. For example, learning about the experiences of teen moms (often considered an inappropriate topic) can inspire someone to work with them upon graduation.

Banned books prepare students for higher education and the real world.

In considering why books shouldn’t be banned, one point that really stood out to me is that books bans can hold students back when they get to college and/or go out into “the real world.”  

Not only can not reading certain texts impact the ability of a student to gain acceptance to certain programs, but even if these students are accepted, they may struggle to learn at the level and speed of other students who did. 

Likewise, students who were subjected to book bans can also struggle in the real world in a number of forms, including understanding the experiences of others and working alongside them (colleagues, clients, customers, and beyond).  These sheltered students may also struggle to perform at expected levels, since reading helps to foster so many skills, including communication and writing.  

Book bans can begin a slippery slope.

The “slippery slope” argument is also worth noting as a reason why books shouldn’t be banned.  In practice, regulating the subject matter of content to which a certain age group should be exposed is a difficult task.  

For example, banning books involving certain explicit content (such as graphic violence and sexual content) can effectively pertain to textbooks, sexual health information, and religious texts as well.

So, where does it end?

Book bans have scary consequences when it comes to the government.

I’ve already referenced freedom of speech, but to add to that point, book bans can enable more unlawful conduct by the government, including abuse of power and discrimination.

While proponents of book bans often argue that books cause indoctrination, quite the opposite is true. History has shown us time and time again that governmental control of information and the limiting of viewpoints is what has allowed horrific events like genocide to occur.

Also, it bears noting that book bans are often improperly used as a political game piece to garner votes for a particular politician.

There are reasonable alternatives to book banning.

The final reason why books shouldn’t be banned is that they aren’t necessary. There are many other workable solutions by which parental rights are respected.

For example, parents can become involved in monitoring and approving their children’s library books, and even “required reading” can be made optional with alternative assignments. These types of measures may also spark meaningful conversation about the books and why they were chosen.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, this is not about forcing students to consume content, and it’s not about content that experts deem objectionable for a particular age. It’s about the availability of content, particularly since so often, book bans are a guise for silencing diverse voices.

Take Action

Now that you know why books shouldn’t be banned, you may want to take action. Here are a few ways we can help:

If you don’t have anything of your own to share, feel free to share this post and/or these posts about banned books to get started:

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