Banning Books, Censorship, and Children
Updated: Mar 29
The Nazi's in WWII threw books into piles and set them on fire because the pages inside them went against their beliefs. Throughout history we have denied people the right to read certain books or to read at all. In the present day we make the decision of what books are and aren't appropriate for readers but in doing so we are overwhelmed with hypocrisy. It's censorship. It's biased. It's unnecessary.
I want to take a moment to discuss who banning books affects most: the children.
Of course, book banning today isn't quite like what the Nazi's had done.
Instead, we ban books for a different purpose. We ban them based off of societal bias and what could be deemed as "inappropriate. In all honesty, we really ban books today to control what the children are reading.
There are three main reasons that a book can be banned according to ala.org
1. the material was considered to be "sexually explicit"
2. the material contained "offensive language"
3. the materials was "unsuited to any age group"
Now, don't get me wrong. Ten year old's don't need to be reading Fifty Shades of Gray. But I do believe that they should have a choice to read other books that fall into "the banned list" that are there for laughable reasons.
Classics like To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Diary of Anne Frank are read in schools across the United States as a part of their curriculum and yet between 2010 and 2019 they continue to be some of the top books to be banned or challenged.
(Other books such as Looking for Alaska by John Green and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins are also on these lists.)
With the exceptions of the books that are wildly inappropriate for children, most of the books on these lists tend to be written for a younger audience in the first place.
Because these books are for a younger audience or are given to a younger audience intentionally, the material isn't written in graphic detail.
Even when a sexual element comes up in these novels it is not done in a way that could be considered smut. When characters are killed the deaths are not graphic. Cursing isn't done in a way where it crosses the line and becomes excessive. Not to mention, rarely are these novels ever taking an extreme approach to challenge society, at best they flirt with with concept of controversy rather than actually being transgressive these days.
Banning books is biased censorship.
But more than that, it's grooming the generation of children into becoming compliant adults.
What is Book Banning?
Book banning has been around for a long time. Throughout the decades we have banned book after book when they went against a standard or contained something that could be viewed as offensive.
Book banning, a form of censorship, occurs when private individuals, government officials, or organizations remove books from libraries, school reading lists, or bookstore shelves because they object to their content, ideas, or themes. - Susan L. Webb of mtsu.edu
Banned books become banned when a librarian, bookseller, government official, organization, or parent condemn them as unsuitable, not just for the general public but for children.
A Banned Book Versus a Challenged Book
A banned book and a challenged book is different in the way that the challenged one isn't banned right now or yet. A challenged book is one that some people feel should be banned to whereas a banned book already is.
Three of the most challenged books of 2020 have included The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling because the books contain witchcraft, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood because of it's profanity and sexual nature, and Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin because it contains LGBTQ content.
Read this full list here.
Why the Solution isn't Banning Books
There are only a two reasons I can accept as to why a person would want to ban a book and both have to do with children.
None of these reasons include a simple dislike for the book. Bad taste isn't a good enough reason.
Reason One: A parent doesn't want their child (or children) to read certain content.
What content a parent feels comfortable allowing their child to read about is their own prerogative.
As a parent myself, when my son gets older I would like to make certain that what he reads what is age appropriate by his age and his maturity.
Nine year old reading material is not the same as adult reading material, that goes without saying.
Even so, the solution to this is not to ban the book.
The solution is to be more involved in our children's reading, to have conversations and participate with our children. Challenging the book before we even know what it's about is lazy parenting. We have an obligation to find out what the book is about and hell, to read it ourselves first. Only then should we tell our children whether or not they are ready for it.
And in the event that the child has already read the no no book, we should ask them what they took away from it, the message that they got from it. Their answers may just not be as terrible as we think. And if the message they took away from it is "wrong" then it is the parents job to further discuss it not the rest of the population.
Reason Two: Librarians and Booksellers Fear the Wrath of Parents
Parents are terrifying. Especially when it comes to their own children.
Once again, this problem can be solved simply by the parents being personally involved in their children's reading material.
Librarians and Booksellers can simply organize the books between age groups and shelves. Smut goes in the adult section. Dr. Seuss can go in the children section. To my knowledge, most if not all of libraries and book stores already do this and have been for a long time. Cudos to them.
(By the way, The Lorax is on that list of banned books back in 1989 because it made logging look bad.
Book Banning, Grooming Children.
When we ban books all that we are accomplishing is assisting into a censorship culture that grooms children into compliant adults. When we pick and chose what children should and should not be allowed to read we turn them into adults that are ignorant and can't think for themselves without the aid of what society thinks is "correct."
Banning books works on the assumption that life imitates art. That we will read something and then go out and do it.
Art imitates life.
Not the other way around.
Assuming of course that we allow children to read age appropriate books and books suited for their maturity, something that we can do by simply participating in a child's reading, we can also give these same children the benefit of a doubt that they won't act on everything that is portrayed in these novels.
Who knows? The child might actually develop an opinion of their own. They might gain some level of insight within themselves, in others, or the world around them.
But by denying them a book because it is condemned as "inappropriate" when the reasons for that damnation are hysterical at best is to keep them from that knowledge that they are entitled to and deserve to find on their own.
There is a time for everything.
Some ages in children are more suitable for certain reading material than others but we should not and cannot ban the book altogether for them.
Don't hesitate to take your opinion on banned books to social media and other places on the web.
Remember, if people don't want books to be compared to the book burnings that occurred in WWII they should stop banning certain books for reasons that are ignorant and should instead take more responsibly in having discussions with children about said reading material.
Are any of your favorite books on a banned list?
Tell me in the comments or reach out to me social media or email.
About the Author
Natalie Nider is the author of upcoming debut short story collection, For My Amusement and creator of Trainwreck Tendencies.
She has turned her love of Transgressive Fiction and Dirty Realism into a passion.
She lives in Pennsylvania with her family where she can often be found writing or staring into an eggshell wall thinking about it