This Is Why We Celebrate Banned Books Week

This is librarian James Klise‘s take on why he loves celebrating Banned Books Week:

I support any person’s right to read anything he or she chooses. In my own library each year, we celebrate Banned Books Week with a showy shelf display and signs encouraging students to check out a “banned book.” In doing so, I trick students into reading my favorite classics, like “Native Son,” “The Color Purple” and “Catch-22.”

I confess, my colleagues and I have approached Banned Books Week with a lighthearted attitude — we use markers to draw dramatic flames on the signs — because our community is exceptionally diverse. Among its many clubs, the school has a popular Gay Straight Alliance, which I advise, along with a Hispanic Honor Society and a Muslim Culture Club.

The faculty and staff at my school work hard to make sure that every student feels respected, included and empowered. As such, the notion of censoring books seems literally foreign to us.

That is awesome. I love the fact that the faculty and staff members at his school are working together to encourage students to read books, including ones that some adults think are wrong for them just because they feature bad language, unpopular ideas, or “adult” themes. Evil, evil books like The Hunger Games and the Harry Potter series and Heather Has Two Mommies.

Guess who’s not happy about that?

Guess who’s taking Klise’s words completely out of context?

Guess who thinks banned books that feature positive portrayals of LGBT people are somehow bad for children?

Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute:

Moreover, in recent years, most of the controversies over picture books have involved the relentless efforts of homosexual activists and their allies to change the moral beliefs of other people’s children. Embedding sexually subversive ideas in soft focus or cartoony picture book illustrations does not render them less subversive. It renders them more insidious.

No adult — at least no mature adult — believes that five-year-olds have a “right to read anything” they choose. And any adult who actually does believe such a feckless notion should not be a librarian, teacher, or parent.

Klise, of course, wasn’t talking about five-year-olds. He’s not suggesting students tackle books that they aren’t mature enough to handle. But there’s no doubt that parents can overreact when it comes to what topics they want their kids exposed to. Especially conservative Christian parents.

The moral beliefs that “homosexual activists” (and people like me) want to push are those of tolerance and acceptance.

Higgins and her ilk want to push bigotry and exclusion.

That’s the reason they’re losing the war.

Perhaps we could have a real debate on the age-appropriateness of certain books. But that’s never what these battles are really about. They’re about censorship. If a book discusses sex or drugs (not necessarily in positive ways), a lot of parents want it banned. If it portrays a lesbian couple in a loving relationship, they want it banned. If it uses a bad word or two, they want it banned.

Higgins’ solution is for librarians to include books that offer, among other things, “conservative views on the nature and morality of homosexuality.”

How about requesting novels for teens that show the suffering that results from the sexual promiscuity prevalent among the male homosexual community? How about requesting novels that depict the pain children feel because their “gay” dads don’t believe that sexual exclusivity is part of “marital” fidelity or monogamy? How about requesting novels that show the pain that results from the high levels of domestic abuse and instability within many lesbian relationships? How about requesting novels that show the pain some children may feel over being deliberately deprived of either a mother or father?

Not every controversial issue has two legitimate sides. Books that promote bullying or the idea that there’s something wrong with children because they like people of the same gender isn’t a value any school ought to be promoting. If you want to pass along that warped sensibility to your children, so be it. But those are beliefs are society ought to eradicate, not promote.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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