Happy Banned Books Week! In case you didn’t already know, Banned Books Week takes place every year in order to raise awareness about the poor practice of banning books. For more information about Banned Books Week, visit their website.
I’ve done a few posts related to banned books in the past so this year I just want to focus on the correlation between diversity and books that are banned.
The people most likely to get books banned are concerned parents who don’t want their children to have access to a particular book. Whether it is offensive language, sexual content, violence, religion, or inappropriate material for the age group, parents are worried about what their children can read.
Nowadays, banning books is less effective because the internet exists. But before, libraries and schools were the only places people could get their hands on books. That meant banning a book in a community would completely stop children from reading it.
So what does banned books have to do with diversity? According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, 52% of the books that have been challenged or banned in the last ten years are books with diverse content. Which, in a twisted way, makes sense.
We already went over that parents are ones most likely to challenge books and get them banned. Most diverse titles are considered diverse because they have characters besides the usual “normal”, straight, white characters. Not only do many diverse titles contain characters that are diverse, but also go over topics and contain content that are related to those diverse characters. This all means that to many parents, these books that they are challenging and banning (often without reading) stray outside their societal norms and therefore what they are comfortable with their children reading.
The sad part is, that problem is exactly why we need diverse books. Parents aren’t comfortable with their children reading material that talks about other people and other issues they know little about. But if a child lives in an all white, completely “normal” community, how are they supposed to grow up and accept everyone else without built-in bias?
Whenever I talk about diverse books, I always talk about the power they carry. The ability to potentially educate people about the world and if not to break stereotypes, then to at least broaden someone’s view about a minority group, whether it is race, ethnicity, weight, sexuality, gender, disability or something else that may set someone apart.
Challenging and banning books is a form of censorship. It is wrong that it only takes a few people to prevent everyone in a community from having easy access to a book. I believe parents have the right to dictate what their children can and cannot read (up to a certain age) but what gives them the right to tell someone else’s child what she can or cannot read?
And now with everything going in the world it is imperative that everyone is educated about people and topics. One of the only ways to do that is to present those people and topics in a new and different light. That different perspective is hard to find in mainstream media and that is one of the most important reasons why we need diverse books.
Now, when someone bans a book, they are no longer just preventing children from reading something that might contain violence, sexual material, profanity, or something else. There is a 52% chance that they are also preventing children from reading about people different from themselves. Preventing them from learning more about the world and the all the different types of people that live in it.
What do you think about the relationship between diverse books and banned ones?