A Challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.
As a parent, children's author, and individual, I believe that if kids are asking questions about a certain topic or social issue (puberty, sex, racism, bullying, sexual orientation, gender, politics, etc.) then it's important to discuss these topics with them. Providing as much age-appropriate information for them about it is a good thing. Encouraging them to read about it, even better!
Above all, it should be the parent/guardian's choice to decide what book is right for their child, and not any other individual or group. Particularly those that are trying to ban the book.
I like to believe that most parents realize that if their child is asking questions, it means they need to find the answers. Likewise, I'd like to hope that most parents will do whatever it takes to help their child find them, whether its in the form of a discussion, the internet or book(s) or all of the above.
If kids are curious about these topics, why wouldn’t we want to prepare them with age-appropriate, honest and informative answers about them? Banning and challenging books about relevant topics really only makes them appear shameful and wrong. That just breeds more curiosity and confusion among kids.
Now, there are obvious and understandable reasons why some books are just unsuitable for kids. If it has unnecessary content (like excessive profanity, explicit sexual situations and heavy violence) that a child isn’t quite ready to comprehend.
Furthermore, book content that excludes, places judgment or directs offensive and hurtful remarks towards an individual or group of people can be incredibly damaging if not explained in context. Such as in the case of books with gender diversity bias, racism, sexism, misogyny, and anti-LGBT.
But is restricting these materials really the answer? What may be suitable for one child may not be so suitable for the next. Do we want other people to decide what is the right choice for our own children?
Ultimately, and like I've said before, it’s understandable and important to have fear for our children’s well-being and want to protect kids from possible harmful information or situations. In this world of social media frenzy and easy access to all information (good and bad, truthful and non truthful) it's incredibly important for parents to monitor what is suitable for each individual child.
No parent wants their child to be exposed to damaging book content or otherwise before they are ready to process or understand it. And that is their choice for their own child.
Don't you agree?
Check out the Banned Books Week Coalition (a national alliance of diverse organizations joined by a commitment to increase awareness of the annual celebration of the freedom to read) and see what you can do to help spread awareness for your favorite banned or challenged book.
"When librarians and teachers reject works that may be “emotionally inappropriate” for children (a common reason), they’re adhering to the traditional and mostly prevailing view that children’s literature should avoid controversial topics. It’s understandable that adults want to minimize children’s anxiety, and schools are often under intense social and financial pressure to maintain established standards. But it ‘s also important to recognize that this tradition was established in the 19th century to serve the needs of the white, wealthy Protestant producers and consumers who have dominated the field of American children’s literature for much of the past 200 years."
-Paul Ringel, The Atlantic, October 1, 2016