READ READ READ: Why some politicians want to restrict children’s access to books

Carter Swart, Staff writer

A second grade student enters her classroom, expecting to pick up the picture book she was reading yesterday. When she checks the shelf, the book is gone. The student asks her teacher what happened to the book, when the teacher states, “Sorry, dear. That book was found to be inappropriate for your age.” The book’s title? “The Life of Rosa Parks.”

This is no longer a hypothetical scenario, it’s happening in our country today. Book censorship has become a politicized issue in America, with politicians at the state and local levels successfully removing children’s books from library and classroom shelves. The justification these legislators are using to deny children access to these books tends to stem from the books’ supposed controversial themes, such as human sexuality, white privilege, or slavery. These politicians typically argue that children should not be exposed to these issues because the students are too young, however, this week, the Florida Board of Education went even further by forbidden the teaching of sexuality and gender identity for ages K-12.

Censorship, especially book banning, is rooted in ignorance, and it’s wrong on every level. While there are some books that may be crude or even offensive, they should never — under any circumstance — be censored or banned. It shouldn’t be a problem to read a book and to disagree with whatever the writer says. If you don’t have a desire to read the book, you are not obligated to do so by any means. If you’re a parent who feels uncomfortable about the contents of a certain book, don’t let your child check it out. It’s that simple.

Max Goller, director of education at the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, cited the exact words Vonnegut offered when asked about book censorship: “‘Have somebody read the First Amendment to the United States Constitution out loud to you, you God damned fool!’”

Not even the worst of books should ever be banned. Books by even the most vile people must be available to be read because readers need to be able to identify something and say, “That is wrong, and I do not agree.” Reading these books helps people to identify wrongdoings from our past. They can also help people form empathy for groups who were discriminated against.

Reading texts from even the worst humanity has to offer can help us reflect on the world’s atrocities like slavery or the holocaust throughout history. Reading about our past helps us learn about the civil rights movement of the 20th century and the horrors of segregation in the south. It’s important that students read these texts in school so that they can identify right and wrong. When students like the second grader in Florida, are denied access to the truth about our past, that is how ignorance is formed. Politicians who claim to be protecting children from exposure to issues of gender or race simply refuse to acknowledge that societal norms are changing. And that’s fine. So you tell me: what are lawmakers really trying to shield children from?

One Hamilton County librarian believes that when a student enters a library, they should have access to any book, of any origin, background or opinion.

“A library should be nonpartisan,” the librarian said. “I think… [it’s] a coordinated effort by political action groups to control information. From the parent side of things, I think [it] comes from a place of concern for their children, and I understand that side of it. I wish they would understand that librarians are also concerned for children… libraries are [a] choice, so you don’t need to ban books, just don’t pick up those books.”

Topics that make people uncomfortable provide us all the more reason to investigate these ideas further. Just because an issue makes people feel awkward does not mean that we should never discuss it.

“Books form knowledge and empathy, and banning them is an affront to these important human qualities,” Goller said.

When we censor ideas, when we ban history, when we take a book out of the hands of that 2nd grader in Florida, we lose awareness of what has happened in our past and how to respond to it. Stop banning books. Read them. Read.