Children’s books and stories are fundamental to developmental growth. I personally was a The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle kind of gal. But, books were a cornerstone of my, and many others, childhoods. These stories can teach us fundamentals of how to read, count, name colors, and understand what sounds barnyard animals make. But they also tell meaningful stories about dealing with emotions and relationships.
The issue recently has been with the idea of book bans and pulling books from schools and libraries that are deemed inappropriate. A wave of book bans has swept southern states and curriculum is on the tips of many Republican Party members tongues. For some, educating the youth on human reality becomes a political issue. What should be an educational safe haven has been turned into a point of contention with some fearing that access to education could be detrimental to children. The American Library Association keeps track of what books are being flagged and have been able to track common themes and trends in the literature making waves. Many targeted books depict LGBTQIA+, racial, and cultural identities.
On the issue, author Kalynn Bayron says, “It’s important for young readers who share the marginalized identities of my characters. I want them to know that I see them, and their life experience counts, that it matters, and it means something. But I think it’s equally important for young readers whose identities have historically been represented to see these stories, as well. It lets them have a window into someone else’s existence.” Slow clap. Education should not be the subject of a political moral debate. It is invalidating to children who relate to characters on the page who have not always been depicted. It is important for children in a position of privilege to learn about the experiences of others.
What started as an inclusive educational movement has turned into a political battleground, and children are the casualties. Denying identity is a human rights issue and should be protected. Children should have a safe space to learn and gain different perspectives and points of view. Literature can also provide grounds for self-expression, especially if a child does not feel comfortable or accepted at home.
The idea that learning about race, sexuality, gender, and the human condition are dangerous to children or morally corrupt ideology. The American Library Association has a specific protocol for books flagged for review that protects authors and readers from censorship. A protocol that has been repeatedly violated by activists, angry parents, and Republican leaders.
As I start climbing down my soap box, I want to leave you with this: Buy these books, read them, pass them on.