Every year, hundreds of more books make it onto the Banned Books List. In fact, just in 2020, more than two hundred and seventy books were added to the list; most of them for use of offensive language and sensitive topics.
When a book is banned by a certain organization, it is prohibited in school reading lists, libraries, and bookstores in that area. Even though it is not illegal to read a banned book, access to the book in that certain area is very limited, which makes it almost impossible to read.
So many popular and beloved books have been banned over the years for various reasons. For example, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins has been banned in many areas of the US for “insensitivity, offensive language, anti-family, and occult.” Similarly, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee—another frequently challenged book—has been banned for “profanity and racial slurs” that may make students “uncomfortable.”
Hundreds of other books—Looking for Alaska by John Green, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hossieni—have been banned in many school districts and counties in the US for similar reasons: they contain content that make students uncomfortable, they are not appropriate for the age demographic, or they contain graphic scenes.
Essentially, a book is banned when certain groups of people are uncomfortable by the content in it. If there are enough people in that demographic, and they complain enough about the book, the chances of it being banned increase; consequently, it will be banned from everyone else in that area. Making a book or story unavailable to everyone else in an area is ultimately like forcing everyone to follow the same religion, or have the same beliefs. Whether or not someone reads a book is up to them; it is a personal choice that should not be made by someone else.
But the bigger problem with book banning is that students are unable to learn about the important topics and themes in these books in a classroom setting; they are unable to be properly educated about important subjects that still affect our country today; and they are unable to think for themselves and form their own opinions. And even though people may not like certain books and the content in them, simply banning a book blocks off a whole world filled with unique ideas and perspectives. Books have the ability to inspire a whole generation of people, but what happens if they are continuously being banned?
Of course, there are many justifications for book banning. The most frequent one is people claiming that they’re “just leaving the past in the past.” However, this is not true; especially since the past continues to affect the present. Banning a book and depriving children and students from these important conversations spreads ignorance and bigotry. Banning a book limits the perspectives gained, and reinforces a singular way of thinking. Banning a book ultimately harms a society and the people in it—more than it helps them. These banned stories teach children to love reading, not to resort to violence and witchcraft. The books that are being banned today are the most important ones to read. They help people all over the world gain empathy, develop new opinions and morals, and, most importantly, find stories and characters that they can relate to. A controversial book should not be a curse; it should instead be an opportunity to have much-needed conversations.