Ppublishers send me children’s books as well as middle and YA books to review. If you read TulsaKids, you know that in the nearly 30 years that I’ve been an editor, I’ve had a librarian from Tulsa City and County Library write the Books column. In fact, it was one of the first decisions I made regarding the content of the magazine. I appreciate TCCL’s contributions over the years and hope we continue to have a wonderful relationship.
But back to the books that publishers send me.
Not long ago I received a lovely picture book about a girl whose parents take her to a parade every year. The book is a wonderful and heartwarming description of the excitement of a child watching a parade, being with their parents, and having a great day with the family. The parents are two moms and they all go to the annual Gay Pride Parade. With all the alarms about children being “cared for” by teachers and librarians, I’m sure some parents would insist that this book be removed from library shelves, along with “Me and My Two Dads.”
This year the American Library Association (ALA) has seen an unprecedented number of complaints about books, especially those with minority characters. The ALA website says:
The American Library Association (ALA) champions and defends the freedom to read as promised by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
In recent months, a national campaign has surfaced demanding the censorship of books and resources that reflect the lives of gay, queer or transgender people, or tell the stories of Black, Indigenous or people of color. Efforts to ban the books have allowed elected and unelected alike to abandon constitutional principles, ignore the rule of law, and disregard individual rights, leading local and state governments trying to censor library collections. Some people who have filed challenges have used intimidation and threats to secure expulsion, targeting the safety and livelihoods of library workers, educators and board members who have dedicated themselves public service and the education of young people.
The American Library Association (ALA) kicks off National Library Week with the publication of its State of America’s Libraries Reporthighlighting the challenges America’s libraries faced in the second year of the pandemic — as well as how they innovated to meet the needs of their communities.
Library staff in every state have faced an unprecedented number of attempted book bans. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to materials and services from libraries, schools, and universities in 2021, resulting in more than 1,597 challenges or removals of individual books. Most of the targeted books were by or about black or LGBTQIA+ people.
You can find a list of the 10 most disputed books of 2021 here: ala.org/news/sites/ala.org.news/files/content/2022-OIF-top-10-challenged-large.jpg
Many of them are LBGTQ+ books.
It does seem that there is a group of people who would like to tell me and others what we can and cannot read about minorities and how they are portrayed in books.
The theme of Banned Books Week is “Censorship Divides Us. Books unite us. It has been said by many people, many times, that books are both a mirror and a window. Books can provide a mirror for everyone. If we can see ourselves in a book, we can feel less alone. What a powerful thing. How would those kids with two moms or two dads feel if their families were erased from the school library? And single mothers? Single dads? Parents with disabilities? Families come in all shapes and sizes, so who’s to say which ones should be made invisible? All people should be able to find a book that reflects them.
And how many times have you used a book to help your child understand anything, from what friendship means to the names of body parts? This is the window part of the books. We use them to help us understand all kinds of things – different cultures, religions, races, and so on. Discussing literature can help us understand what it means to be human, it can uplift us, it can unite us.
Rather than letting unfounded fear take over, why not use books to find out more about what you are afraid of. (Remember the hubbub about “Harry Potter” being a wizard? I don’t know many kids who were swayed into a life of wizardry by reading these books. More likely, they learned a lot about anti -heroes and the power of good versus evil). Read with your children and discuss what you read. It’s always been one of my favorite activities – and I still do it with my adult children.
Learn more about Banned Books Week on ALA website. Participate in certain events.
Livestream, 09/22: “Censorship of LGBTQ+ comics”
Today you can watch a live event on the Banned Books Week Facebook Page at 4 p.m. CST. The talk is “The Censorship of LGBTQ+ Comics with Maia Kobabe and Mike Curato,” moderated by Greg Rokisky and Jordan Smith. Kobabe and Curato will talk about attempts to censor their work and LGBTQ+ stories.
There are many other virtual events that can help you better understand the importance of intellectual freedom. It is fundamental to our democracy. Who knows? If you were a book ban supporter, you can watch some of these virtual events and webinars on forbiddenbooksweek.org and change your mind.