Ever since the 1800’s the Moral Majority has been banning books for the sake of children’s literature. Adolescents are fast learners when it comes to something that has caught their interest, parents of school boards, and school librarians fear that young readers will be influenced from the inappropriate and intolerable actions that are promoted in books. With this being said, there are many extents for a book to be banned.
Book banning is the largest widespread form of censorship in America and happens when government officials or private individuals remove books from school reading lists, libraries, and bookstore shelves. Censorship of books violates the First Amendment (The right to freedom of speech), but courts told public officials that they will take community standards into their own hands if some materials include actions of pornography or savage behavior. Most books are banned because they are based on explicit content that is inappropriate for young readers and usually contains actions such as offensive language, graphic violence, rebelling against parents, and sexual activity. Supporters of book banning focus on children’s literature because they worry that children will start to have questions about a topic they shouldn’t know about, or copy actions that are presented in the book.
Many other individuals who oppose book banning believe that the First Amendment protects students’ rights to obtain information from books and express their own ideas. They also argue that censorship restricts information about real-life situations, limits the youth’s freedom of thought, and disregards the fundamental functions of education. These points are argued because students will not be prepared to learn about the stages of growing up, free expression, democracy, violence, and justice if members of schools and institutions hide the valuable lessons in books.
However, in 1982 Judith Krug who was a part of the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association suggested the idea of sponsoring Banned Book Week and giving the chance for all ages to have the freedom to read any books in schools, libraries, and stores. This particular week was organized to recognize books that have been banned and encourage individuals to allow young readers to analyze new perspectives and expand knowledge of all tactics in the world.
Challenged books are banned for educating children on sexual activity, nudity, use of drugs and alcohol, suicide, and racism. These ideas presented in books allow children and students to be curious about actions that may be explicit for their knowledge. Books that have been challenged for sex content are, It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris, My Mom’s Having A Baby! (A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy) by Dori Hillestad Butler, and Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth. Sex is a Funny Word, is a book based on educating children and young adults about maturity and adulthood.
The book was challenged for exactly why it was written, it walked young readers through the stages of hormones, teenage experiences, and development of adulthood but was still seen as “too inappropriate” for parents are teachers to allow young scholars to read. By telling kids that learning about their body and gender is “too inappropriate,” can lead to confusion later in life because they won’t be educated on how to handle the aspects of growing up and could also become too immature for real-life situations.
More books that were banned for suicide content were Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar. In 2017 the books series Thirteen Reasons Why was banned in several school districts around the country because it explored the struggles of bullying and teen suicide. Although this book wasn’t just to be focused on self-harm, but to pay attention and understand why teenagers use suicide as an escape from their own problems. Not only can a student gain knowledge from these books but they could also comprehend them and compare it to problems that occur in reality. Adults believe that they are protecting the young youth by blocking out savage and unpleasant acts that are seen as deviant but really, they’re only blocking out the valuable information that an adolescent needs to learn from.
Books are a way of communication. Books inform people, influence others, and show awareness, but they are capable of many more. A book goes into depth about the real or fantasy world while still having ways of educating society, but most influential books are banned to hide aspects of life and protect the innocence of children. The novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in 1852, a year later the Civil War had begun.
The author brought attention to slavery and the vicious acts that dangered the African Americans in the Southern and Northern states of America. In a National Public Radio interview, Mark Dimunation, who was chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress, mentioned that this book, “changed the way that Americans talked about race, both at the time of the Civil War and after.” Another book that brought reality to slavery was Gone With the Wind. It was published in 1936 and is still talked about in today’s society to get a better understanding of the Civil War and slavery in the South.
Other books are banned because of non-religious beliefs, for example, the Harry Potter series promoted witchcraft and non-biblical values, protestors of book banning fear that children who read this series won’t be able to determine the differences between fantasy and reality. A study by psychologists Elizabeth Vozzola and Amie Sunland, announced that a few children from their survey believed that the fantasy life and magic that is portrayed in the Harry Potter series could be real. The impact of books is based on the aspects of society and imagination, whether the story is told in fiction or nonfiction young readers are persuaded by the creativity that is presented to them.
In the last ten years books, were banned for diverse content, such as, religion, racial problems, gender identity, mental illness, sexual orientation, and disability. Books were challenged to what seems “appropriate” for young readers and this marginalizes children’s aspects of life because the readers aren’t learning the realities of society. Instead, they are being blocked off from the real world.
During the late 19th century and early 20th century a debate was held that covered the topic of American children’s literature, and focused on the question of how much adults should trust their children to choose what books to read and many had said, “very little.” Most parents have concerns about what book their child is reading because they have no expectation of how their son or daughter will react to all of the information that they are receiving within the books. For example, children’s magazines during the 19th century hardly discussed the sufferings of enslavement and when a popular magazine (The Juvenile Miscellany) mentioned the anti-slavery movements, its majority audience nelgected the company and it shut down within the next year. Adults encouraged book banning on slavery because they wanted to shield the children from the heartbreaking truth about the time of their culture, and they wanted white men to still be recongized as kind, hardworking, people.
In 2016 a fantasy fiction, The Seventh Wish written by Kate Messener, told a story about a twelve year-old girl named Charlie Brennan, who desperately wanted a fancy Irish dancing solo dress. One day she decides to go ice perch fishing in her town’s winter lake, in hopes to find a fish that will help grant her a wish for the dress and as the story goes on Charlie’s wishes had turned against her. The moral of the story is that the hardest complications in life can’t be resolved by wishing for something else.
In 2016 when the book was released, it was rejected from several school libraries and Messer had a few words to say about it. On a blog Messer had posted, “When we say ‘This book is inappropriate,’ were telling those children ‘your situation, your family, your life is inappropriate.” Children’s literature in America is known as a conservative force because the structural biases portrayed in the publishing industry has made it more difficult for authors to publish their children’s books.
The Freedom to Read Foundation is an American non-profit, anti-censorship organization. The foundation fights for the right of library users and that any age should be allowed to read any book without government interference. FTRF over the years has joined many cases arguing against individuals or state officials who believe that the government should ban books. A recent case that was overruled in 2015, also supported FTRF’s ideas and goals, the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) had the foundation help them file a lawsuit against the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Tucson Unified School District challenged the Arizona Revised Statute § 15-112 because Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, publicly announced that TUSD was in violation of the Statute for offering students the chance to learn about Mexican-American Studies. The Arizona Revised Statute is an enforcement of banning books within the state that include: promoting the overthrow of the United States government, promoting resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, and advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.
After his statement the district was forced to remove all Mexican-American cultural books from classrooms and libraries, the people of the school district were furious because that program has helped many students graduate. The Maya Arce, et al. v. Diane Douglas case had conflicted for two years of trying to make the decision if the Tucson School District should remove all Mexican-American books from classrooms, but on July 7th, 2015 the court’s final decision making was to overthrow the districts case. In another case that the FTFR was involved in, had victory in a trial that was filed against the Davis County School District. Teachers and staff were worried about students getting their hands on a book called In Our Mothers’ House because it told a story about same-sex parents raising their children.
Staff members of the district removed this book from its shelves and put them behind the counter, if a student wanted to read In Our Mothers’ House, they would need a signature stating their parents permission to access the book. Parents complained that the story normalizes a lifestyle that they don’t agree with, and argued the fact that this book violates the Utah’s sex-education laws for the advocacy of homosexuality. The court’s final desicion was to return the book back to its shelves without restriction and prohibited the school staff members from restricting access to books that promote homosexuality.
Restricting children’s literature books for student’s education has been an ongoing conflict for two centuries. In the 1800’s, students were banned from retaining any knowledge of the slave acts and the dreaded fear African Americans went through during that time. In the 1900’s books were banned for promoting sexual intimacy and rellebious teenagers, in the 2000’s children’s literature has targerted homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
Elders want to ignore the biggest parts of history because they don’t want their kids to be able to have a mind of their own and perform acts that the moral majority strictly doesn’t agree on. However, Banned Books Week is promoted by many foundations that support the argument of anti-book banning and continues to shine on the week of September.
Organizations and Institutions such as American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers for Free Expression, Freedom to Read Foundation, and the Association of American Publishers all encourage Banned Book Week and reader’s rights. The action of banning books has been prevalent for a long time, and will continue in the future
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