I was planning on taking today off from the blog to get my next round of picture books ready to go, and then a friend and colleague sent me this article from Book Riot. The Central York, Pennsylvania school board has put in a wide-reaching ban on books – from picture books through YA – that are culturally relevant and embrace diversity. This list was originally created by the district’s diversity committee.
Some of the books on this list include Andrea Beaty’s Sofia Valdez, Future Prez; Alexandra Penfold’s All Are Welcome; Matthew A. Cherry’s Hair Love, and Grace Lin’s A Big Mooncake for Little Star. Look at those books and tell me what makes these contentious, problematic, or scandalous, except for the fact that they target people of color. What about a book called All Are Welcome could possibly be an issue? The issue here is racism.
Another book on the list, A Boy Called Bat, by Elana K. Arnold, has a main character who appears to be on the autism spectrum. Banning this book sends a message every bit as dangerous. Is the school board in Central York, PA, suggesting that nonwhite, neurotypical characters and creators should not be put into children’s hands?
There is no apparent reason for any of these books to be on a banned list except for the glaringly obvious one. Is this truly the world we want to create for ALL children? Is this truly the world we want to live in ourselves?
Banned Books Week is coming up in less than two weeks. This year, it’s more important than ever to understand that our freedom to read is coming under attack Educate yourselves. Educate the families around you. Read broadly and encourage others to read different viewpoints.
You don’t have to love everything you read. You don’t have to agree with everything you read. But it is not on you, or on me, or on anyone, to tell others what they are forbidden to read. In a society where Mein Kampf remains on bookshelves but All Are Welcome isn’t, Banned Books Week is still necessary.
I’ll be making sure to keep reading and writing about books that represent the world I want to live in, and I’ll be working on displays for my library – I’d love to see yours, if you create some, too. You don’t need a library or a classroom, either: let your bookshelves show off who you are!
Time to get to reading and sharing, my friends.