Turning the Page on Book Banning

Mar 21, 2024 | Agency, Authenticity, Vision, Worth

As a librarian who works with youth, I’ve been thinking a lot about the increase in book banning the last couple of years. I had this sense that my library world and my coaching world came together on this topic, but I couldn’t quite figure out how for the longest time, but then it hit me–it’s about agency.

Agency–Defining for ourselves what our lives are about, being able to gather information to help us do that. That is what people are trying to take from people under the age of 18. The ability to think for themselves, to discover themselves, to determine who they are. It’s being couched in terms of “parents’ rights.”

I want to say that I can’t argue with that, but the truth is, it’s not that simple. It’s not that I am against parents having the right to make decisions for their kids. Not entirely. But “parents’ rights” doesn’t hold up when you start poking around beneath the surface, start asking “Which parents?” The ones for banning books seem fine with violating the rights of parents who support access for their kids. And that bothers me. It also bothers me that it implies that kids don’t have any rights in comparison.

What about the parents who have abused or neglected their kids, the kids who arguably need information their parents don’t want them to have more than other kids do? Or the kids whose parents don’t want them to be who they are–particularly if they are on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Kids who have a much higher rate of attempting to take their own lives. Kids who need to see that there are other people out there who are like them, kids who are okay with themselves, kids who are supported to be who they are.

Books give young people the power to determine who they are, who they want to be. They give them power to make their way through the world, to learn about people different from themselves as well as those who are like them. I think our kids would be better served by talking with them about what they are reading rather than banning things that scare us or that we disagree with; by asking them what they think, what they need, what scares them; by seeing them more clearly; by being curious about who they are and supporting them to envision who they might become.

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