In light of Banned Books Week, which took place last month, the American Library Association released statistics that showed that the United States’ most censored books came from the young adult and teen fiction genres. According to the ALA, six out of the 10 most banned books are children’s books. Each year, the ALA receives an increasing amount of requests to take books off of their shelves.
Some individuals who feel the need to censor novels believe that once children immerse themselves in the world of Harry Potter, they automatically turn to witchcraft and demonology as an external form of venting.
Others might even argue that kids these days, mesmerized by the Captain Underpants series, will strip down to nothing but their undergarments, shouting “Tra-la-la!” But most disturbingly, some critics contend that teens are highly influenced by reading Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why and find themselves driven to a world filled with sex, violence and suicide.
These beliefs, supported by those who believe that shielding children is the best form of education, give way to a faulty slippery-slope argument. Parents might fear that one day their innocent kids will read the Magic Tree House series and before they know it, pick up The Catcher in the Rye and rebel to their full capacity. But the connection between mentalities A and B lacks both middle ground and transition. According to reports by CNN, this ability to recognize the faults in their logic leads beloved books to suddenly be pulled from the shelves, most of the time without the public’s knowledge.
Admittedly, young audiences are malleable, as they are undergoing critical periods of forming their mindset. Shielding kids from specific material, however, is not a sound educational method. What oppressors of “gritty” material, including topics such as racism, homosexuality, and sex, fail to realize is that each story contains a message about the human condition.
Many adults are unable to grasp the ability of kids to decode and differentiate between right and wrong. An introduction to these topics during adolescence actually allows children to process the material for longer periods of time, and exposure to controversial topics ultimately eliminates such a taboo.
This element of attraction to taboo topics translates to the idea that all of the most challenged books reached commercial and critical success to some degree. These celebrated works should be allowed in classrooms and libraries so that young people can have a well-rounded experience.
That being said, the reading selection for children will, of course, have to filter through their parents. But it is the parents’ responsibility to their children to not forbid content because of the subject matter alone. Instead, parents must dive into controversy and explain the gravity of the subject matter to their kids. Though it is crucial to maintain the innocence of children, it is better to explain the repercussions of a certain situation.
Danni Wang is a freshman majoring in health and humanity.