Readers’ Forum: The silent danger of silencing books

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“Why [are] books (…) hated and feared? They show the pores of the face of life.” (Bradbury 82). The famous line from Ray Bradbury’s book “Fahrenheit 451”, outlines the reasoning behind the mass burning of books in a dystopian world. Bradbury’s novel explores the government’s fear of a world of individual thoughts and opinions, to such an extent that it leads to the destruction of the world’s history and knowledge. A dystopian world that may not be far from our own if we don’t take action. 

Books allow for multiple perspectives and worldviews to be heard. When we are young our worldview is limited to the thoughts and opinions of our classmates, our parents, and our educators. When we read books, however, we are exposed to the worlds within and beyond the pages. By reading books about daring adventures or overcoming challenges, we can see ourselves in fictional characters and learn from their character and growth. Enacting bans on books closes off a vital avenue for children and young adults to both find themselves in the pages of a story, and to venture into the lives of others whose backgrounds and experiences diverge from their own, thereby stifling empathy and knowledge growth. Without vigilant efforts to cease the censorship of literature, we may find ourselves in a dystopian reality reminiscent of ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ where thoughts and opinions are restricted solely to the sanitized narratives sanctioned to be provided and consumed. When we restrict unique thoughts and opinions, the world is forced to only see one narrative. But whose job is it to determine what that narrative is?

When I was in seventh grade, my English teacher gave me the book “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. A book that explored a young Black girl’s experience with police brutality and racism. Prior to reading the book, I ignorantly had never thought about the conversations that Black parents have with their children about being cautious or careful around police. As a young White girl, my worldview had been limited to mine and my parents experiences with the police. But reading this book has increased my empathy, giving me compassion for others and expanding my views on racism and privilege. In 2021, Black adults were asked what the biggest problems in the United States were. Over 60% said racism and police brutality (Pew Research Center). “The Hate U Give”, a story about one of the biggest problems facing nearly 50 million American citizens (Pew Research Center) is currently banned from classrooms and libraries in 3 states and is pending investigation in 4 (PEN America). 

Some parents may feel that it is their job to protect their children from potentially graphic images and explicit language in books. They feel that it is the right of parents and educators to guide their children’s reading sources and ensure that what they read aligns with their own beliefs and values. However, it is not the job of parents and educators to remove books from libraries and classrooms for all children. It is the responsibility of parents, librarians and educators to teach young children about the world around them and to discuss the challenging topics that certain books possess. In doing so, this allows for open conversations to be held and for questions to be asked in a safe space that respects many beliefs and values of individuals. 

As we navigate the complexities of our world, books serve as essential tools that offer insights into the vast cultures and lives of its people. To secure a society where critical thinking and mutual respect flourish, we must remain vigilant against censorship, defending all works of literature. In a world attempting to ban books seeks library silence; we must be as loud as the stories within. 

McKenna Carlisle

Chicago, Illinois

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