Every September since 1982, schools have sent out a new list of books that are considered “banned.” Now some of these books I understand; some books with explicit sexual context are just not appropriate for kids in the K-12 age range. But most of these books are taken away for more confusing reasons. For example, Melissa Story (also called George) by Alex Gino follows a transgender 4th grader who wants to play a character in a school play that isn't her assigned gender. This book is rated the #1 most challenged book, and this year it was banned for sexual references and inappropriate language. I read that book three years ago and don't remember a single sexual reference or any inappropriate language in the book. This is just one of the many books banned from public schools all over the world for no reason except that they were too outspoken to be read.
The public school system bans these books because of complaints from parents, teachers, and students. While I do think that it's nice that they take complaints into account, there are different ways to deal with issues – ways that do not include banning books from everyone. In 2nd grade, I really wanted to read the Hunger Games, but my librarian wouldn't let me check it out. Of course, I was confused at the time, but after I read the Hunger Games a couple years later, I realized why my librarian had not let me check it out. You don't need to ban the Hunger Games just because a 2nd grader can't read it, you need to trust that the librarian won't let a 2nd grader read it. Just because a child can't read a certain book doesn't mean that it should be banned. You simply need to restrict it from younger audiences.
When complaints are sent in, different people go through them and determine whether or not the book in question should be banned. If a book is not chosen to be banned, it is labeled as “challenged,” meaning that it is not banned but a lot of people want it to be. The Harry Potter series is a classic, yet, surprisingly, it is very heavily challenged. People want to ban it for witchcraft, and some even believe that certain spells are real. The Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey is being challenged for nudity and because people think it will make kids disobedient. In my opinion, both of these book series don't deserve to be challenged. There are millions of fantasy books with magic and none of them are getting challenged, so why Harry Potter? Same thing with Captain Underpants: there are so many children's books with the same types of jokes and nudity in them, so why aren’t they getting the same treatment?
There's no reason to take away books from school libraries. Yes, some books do have explicit content, but you just have to trust that the librarians will not let younger kids read it. You can't ban a book just because it deals with more serious topics. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is now a banned book because a parent complained about sexual and homosexual themes. I believe that this is a historic book with themes that everyone needs to learn about. To ban a book of that importance is to deprive kids of proper education. Yes, you can learn about the Holocaust, but only from secondary sources. Anne Frank’s diary gives a first-person look at what happened in a way that no history book could.
This is why banning books needs to stop. The more books that are banned, the worse the reasons for banning them become. We need to stop complaining about books and ruining them for everyone just because one parent didn't like what their kid was reading. Yes, people will still complain, but that's going to happen anyway. Books should be a way to explore others' experiences. Bans only shield us from them.
Danica Bishop is an 8th grader at Raleigh Hills K-8 and serves as the Membership Coordinator for Oregon Student Voice, a student-led organization that empowers all students to be authentic partners in making decisions that affect their K-12 education.