No more blanket bans: Keep school library shelves full

By Lily Nussbaum | Social Media Editor

As a kid with glasses too big for my face and a personality too big for this world, I found inspiration and comfort within the four walls of my school library.

Each week, I would return my towering stack of checked-out books and exchange them for a new one, slowly making my way through all my favorite series, from “The Boxcar Children” to “The Magic Treehouse.”

One of my all-time favorites is “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume. The book follows 11-year-old Margaret Simon as she tries to navigate your typical preteen issues like friends, crushes and, of course, her period while developing, researching and questioning her religious affiliation, as she comes from an interfaith marriage.

I found myself relating to Margaret physically and emotionally. I felt seen as Margaret struggled with how her body looked compared to her classmates and with her personal relationship with God.

Last week, according to a Houston Chronicle article, the novel was removed from elementary school shelves in Katy Independent School District in Houston. It was one of 14 books found inappropriate for undisclosed reasons and banned. Another one was Dr. Seuss’ “Wacky Wednesday.”

While this specific example applies to book bans in elementary school, they happen at every level of education.

According to a report created by the American Library Association, Texas led the nation with the greatest number of book ban attempts in 2022. There were 93 attempts to restrict access, which included 2,349 books.

The state closest in number, Pennsylvania, only had 56 attempts, which included 302 books. Texas tried to ban almost eight times as many books.

While I agree parents are entitled to control over what their child reads, especially when the child is younger, I think it is bizarre that their opinions result in blanket bans for every child attending a school. A parent’s personal decision regarding their child should not result in the authority to take books straight off the shelf for every other child.

A library is a hub filled with diverse voices, writing styles and stories. Through exploring all the options, children learn how to make sense of the world, its inhabitants, and, most importantly, themselves.

In “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret,” the main point is the importance of independent decision-making. It’s difficult for Margaret when those around her are constantly arguing and trying to make decisions for her based on their opinions.

We should apply this same logic to books. If you don’t want your child reading it, that’s totally valid. But that’s an independent decision you make — not one that should be made for you.