Adventures in Reading – Dallas Voice
These Book Bans Harm Children, They Don’t Protect Them
I was chatting online recently with a childhood friend, someone I grew up with in Southern California. We shared memories of when, as children, we eagerly awaited the arrival of the bookmobile from the Long Beach Public Library so that we could return the borrowed books we had already read and borrow others that nurtured our interests. . Our schools encouraged reading back then, and I am grateful to them. I still love books, and Katie and I read every day.
But I don’t remember any heads of state declaring the books in our library to be “obscene” or “pornographic”; those books were behind the convenience store counter or on your dad’s bedside table.
Books are great: they take you on adventures and expose you to new ideas, cultures and history. Books stimulate your imagination. So it makes me sad to see our governor here in
Texas is once again interfering with books a school library might have for students, especially since it seems particularly concerned with books about LGBTQ identities or experiences.
Just because a parent or two gets upset about a particular book doesn’t mean that book should be taken down. Perhaps, instead, it should be celebrated! Books that arouse passion are often classics.
Seems like the parents who demand books be removed from the library are the same kind of people who go on a diet and then demand that restaurants remove all desserts from their menu so no one else can eat them either .
Hey, just because you don’t want your child to read a book doesn’t mean my child can’t! Besides, we read what interests us. When was the last time you saw a child read a book – other than an assigned reading – that they weren’t interested in?
It is also important to note that the term “obscene” is subjective. What might be “obscene” to you might not be to me, and what I consider “obscene” might be something you mean perfectly well. The Supreme Court has said that for something to be obscene, it must be:
• Lustful in nature (demonstrating excessive interest in sexual matters)
• Completely devoid of scientific, political, educational or social value, and
• Violating local community norms.
I don’t believe my life is one of those things, and I haven’t found a book in a school library that rises to that level.
The court also addressed the issue of pornography (a word thrown out by the Governor) in 1964 by Judge Potter Stewart, to outline his obscenity threshold test in Jacobellis v. Ohio and why the material at issue in the case was not obscene therefore was copyrighted speech that could not be censored, wrote: “I will not attempt today to further define the types of material which I understand to be encompassed within this abridged description [‘hard-core pornography’], and maybe I’ll never be able to do it intelligibly. But I know it when I see it, and the movie involved in this case is not that.
Generally speaking, these books probably didn’t win any American Library Association awards.
It just gives me a scary feeling when state officials want to describe books that help students understand who they are – or help them understand a friend or family member or even just help them understand in general – and label these books as pornography.
My daughter loved the Harry Potter books, but she’s not a witch or a transphobe. After 9/11, I read books about terrorism and what leads to the kind of extremism that manifests itself in violence, but that didn’t make me a terrorist. And, you see, your child reading a book about queer identities doesn’t make them more queer, any more than reading Moby Dick makes them a captain (or a white whale).
I think that instead of limiting the variety of books and ideas available to students, we should expand it! We should encourage children to read more – to read whatever interests them.
Then, as a parent, how about instead of fighting with the library over which books shouldn’t be there, you spend that time telling your child about the book they just read. Ask them to share what they learned and discuss it with them.
Where does all this fear come from? No book will make your child gay – or straight, for that matter. Censorship of ideas is not part of the fabric of a free society. It’s quite the opposite.
Denying America’s racist history not only hides the truth, but also delays the healing process. Trust your children to be able to read the truth about our history, then they can work to help make things better.
I was quite angry when I learned of the atrocities committed by Christopher Columbus. I was also upset with my school system as I had not heard of the Tulsa Race Massacre and the significance of Juneteenth until I moved to Texas as an adult. None of these historical events were taught in California schools.
I know that parents want to preserve the innocence of their children for as long as possible. But children grow up, so let’s not grow them up with body shame and with reproductive health a mystery. Let’s not label LGBQIA people as pornographic.
As a parent, instead of banning books and crushing ideas, I would push schools to add critical thinking to high school curricula. We need to teach students HOW to think, not WHAT to think.