As books become overwhelmingly challenged and banned across the country, it is important to take a step back and ask ourselves a question. Why are these books so important?
Books are written for a reason and that should be pretty clear. Nobody reads a book expecting to not gain any knowledge from it. When we pick up a book, we do this to gain as much knowledge as possible within those pages. Each book was written with a purpose, and sometimes that purpose is meant to convey difficult but very critical topics. 41% of books being challenged touch on people of color and 22% have the main idea of racism (American Progress). Why are these topics specifically being challenged?
As said before, each book is written with a purpose. Each author chooses words to create a message, and with a purpose. One of the most challenged books is Looking For Alaska by John Green. It is being challenged mostly for its explicit language. Although it has very seldom explicit scenes, some of the overall themes are grief, hope and young-adult relationships. Not to mention that these explicit scenes are crucial to the message of the book and have very deep meanings. Which has more significance? An overall theme that sticks with readers, or a singular explicit scene that makes up one out of its 369 pages?
Only 9 states have passed laws that allow for multicultural or ethnic studies (neaedjustice). 36 states have adopted laws that restrict curriculum on racism and race (chalkbeat.org). Well, if students aren’t introduced to racism while young, when will we ever be? By the time students enter the real world filled with working opportunities and communicating with people, the non-exposed people will have significantly more problems trying to adjust. Racism is not being taught. That is why authors write about it. Legislatures in states across the country have been restricting the ability of schools to teach the basic principle of systemic racism within America, so authors take it into their own hands. If young adults don’t even have the chance to be exposed to racism (especially in homogenous communities), how will our future look? The people challenging these books are the people they don't apply to. Students are not challenging books. Conservative groups of parents are. The ones who don’t want their children exposed to ideas they think are too “harsh.”
Books such as This Book is Gay and Gender Queer strive to bring validation to young LGBTQ readers. As young adults, we begin to figure out who we are and who we want to be. There is no curriculum that teaches us how to navigate ourselves and how to get through the real world. We are left to figure this out on our own. There is no easy way to figure out what we as students want to do with our entire lives, and if certain feelings no one talks about are normal. Validation is very important to every human being, and especially young people. This is one of the many reasons why books on complicated topics are important! They validate. Why should the ability to feel seen, validated, and welcomed be banned? It shouldn’t! Getting rid of these books will not make issues such as racism, and suicides by young adults who don't feel validated go away… these issues will just increase drastically.
How can you help?
If your school board, district, or parents in your district are challenging books on which you don't feel should be banned, stand up! Use your voice and power as a student. Students speaking up is incredibly valuable and meaningful, especially to people who have devoted their lives to serving education and you.
If you know someone who needs validation on how they feel, recommend a book. Books are universal and there are millions. There has to be one out there that can help.
Begin to educate yourself on these topics. You can do this by reading these books , or talking to someone who is educated on these topics. Different perspectives allow you to form opinions.