What do you think of efforts to ban books from school libraries?

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Across the United States, parents, activists and lawmakers argue that certain books, especially those about sexual and racial identity, have no place in school libraries.

Have you witnessed these book challenges in your school? What do you think of them?

In “Book Ban Efforts Spread Across the US,” Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter write about the phenomenon:

In Wyoming, the county attorney’s office reviewed charges against library workers for stockpiling books like “Sex Is a Funny Word” and “This Book Is Gay.”

In Oklahoma, a bill has been introduced in the state Senate that would prohibit public school libraries from keeping books about sexual activity, sexual identity, or gender identity.

In Tennessee, the McMinn County School Board voted to remove the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus” from an eighth-grade module on the Holocaust due to nudity and swearing.

Parents, activists, school board officials and lawmakers across the country are challenging the books at a pace not seen in decades. The American Library Association said in a preliminary report that it received an “unprecedented” 330 reports of book challenges last fall, each of which could include multiple books.

“It’s quite a surprising phenomenon here in the United States to see book bans come back into vogue, to see efforts to bring criminal charges against school librarians,” said Suzanne Nossel, chief executive of the organization. PEN America Freedom of Speech, although efforts to file a complaint have so far failed.

Such challenges have long been a staple of school board meetings, but it’s not just their frequency that has changed, say educators, librarians and free speech advocates — it’s also the tactic behind them and the places where they take place. Conservative groups in particular, fueled by social media, are now pushing challenges into state houses, law enforcement and political races.

“The politicization of the subject is what’s different than what I’ve seen in the past,” said Britten Follett, chief content officer at Follett School Solutions, one of the nation’s largest book providers to K-schools. -12. “It’s driven by legislation, it’s driven by politicians who line up on one side or the other. And in the end, the librarian, teacher, or educator gets caught in the middle.

Among the most frequent targets are books on race, gender and sexuality, such as “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson, “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison, “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison.

The article continues with a student’s perspective on a ban at his school:

Jack Petocz, a 17-year-old student from Flagler Palm Coast High School who organized the protest against the book ban, said the removal of books about LGBTQ characters and books about racism was discriminatory and harmful to students who may already feel in the minority and that their experiences are rarely represented in the literature.

“As a gay student myself, these books are so essential for young people, because they feel there are resources for them,” he said, noting that books that depict heterosexual romances are rarely disputed. “I found it to be very discriminatory.”

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • What do you think of efforts across the country to remove books — especially those about race, gender and sexuality — from school libraries?

  • How do you think these bans affect students, teachers and librarians?

  • What do you think makes a book “appropriate” or “inappropriate” for inclusion in a school library? If you were a school librarian, what criteria would you use to determine if a certain book should be included in the library?

  • What’s the best way to address parents’ concerns that a book in a school library is inappropriate for their child? Should the library remove the book? Should a library have a policy in place to prevent students from viewing a book if their parents disapprove of it? Or are there better solutions that don’t involve changing the books available in a library?

  • Jack Petocz, a student who protested his school’s book ban, argued that the removal of books about racism and LGBTQ issues was discriminatory. Do you agree? Why or why not?

  • Do you think the books in your school library represent a wide range of perspectives and experiences? What topics are sufficiently covered? What kinds of books would you like to see more of?


Want more write prompts? You can find all of our questions in our Student Opinion column. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can integrate them into your classroom.

Students aged 13 and over in the US and Britain, and 16 and over elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by Learning Network staff, but remember that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

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