“If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn.”
— Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Books contain powerful tools. They build worlds, explain the unknown and teach lessons. Without them, we would live duller lives.
They can illustrate hurt and heartbreak but have the ability to balance it with wonder and courage.
They become integral to our growth into adulthood, but a few Americans still attempt to ban some of these books from students.
Books should be available for everyone, and Banned Books Week, which starts Sunday, celebrates that freedom.
Each year, the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association compiles the list of frequently challenged books. For a book to be considered “challenged,” someone has to attempt to remove or restrict it from a school’s curriculum or library.
The ALA says about 40 percent of the challenges come from parents.
Classics like The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck are frequently challenged.
Of Mice and Men was challenged as recently as 2014.
The same year, Highland Park “suspended” seven books. Though all the books were reinstated, The Dallas Morning News reported parents reasoned the ban by saying high school students should not be exposed to some of the hardships and controversies of adulthood. The books had content dealing with either sexual content, abortion, abuse and/or rape.
They also include material about self-acceptance, overcoming grief, trauma and/or heartbreak, understanding racial oppression, enduring hard life situations and hope.
Parents have every right to decide on appropriate reading material for their child. If they don’t want their kid reading The Catcher in the Rye at school, that’s fine. But the same parents can’t deem the book inappropriate for every student.
The minority deeming which books are allowed for the majority then removing the “offending” material? That’s censorship and a detriment to students.
Books can give students tools to navigate adulthood.
We should never take that away.
Books “suspended” from Highland Park, Texas in 2014
▪ The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
▪ An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
▪ Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
▪ Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
▪ The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David K. Shipler
▪ The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
▪ The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls