Imagine an 8th grader is in their room, reading Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, when their mother walks in, sees the title and confiscates the book. The child asks why and the mother reveals that the school has just sent a notice home banning anyone from reading it. This is because the content in the book is deemed “inappropriate” by both administrators and progenitors. This book, along with countless others, sheds light on heavy subjects such as suicide and sexual assault, so schools choose to ban students from reading about them. However, these subjects are a part of life. Taking away the ability for adolescents to be informed about these subjects through literature is not only cowardly, but improperly prepares them for the world. Furthermore, many parents and school administrators believe that books of this nature should be banned for the safety of the student body.
However, despite what administrators and parents believe, the act of banning books from communities not only desensitizes and shelters young people, but also publicizes the books, which defeats the purpose of the ban.
A book can have a powerful impact on its reader, and may introduce them to a topic that they may have not known about. However, a book can also be banned due to parents and administrators judging the book’s content as “unsuitable”. Some of the most popular books of our time (i.e Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson) are challenged because the topics are controversial, or sensitive to parents. For example, the graphic novel “Drama” by Raina Telgemeter, was the subject of a dispute for being ¨sexually explicit¨ due to a scene in which two boys kiss during a play. The act of banning this book implicitly states to a community that being gay is not acceptable, and that it should be censored. In the article, “Banned Books Week: How Comics Are Fighting a Hail of Critical Fire” it states, “The book’s light touch is precisely what infuriates those who want to take it off the shelves--there’s a sense that’s being communicated to me and others that kids shouldn't be reading that being gay is a normal part of the human experience” (Cavna 2). The book in question should not be taken off the shelves, as it is discussing an important topic in society in a small way. This is also shown through another popular book: Huckleberry Finn. The book, published in 1885, is to be altered to exclude the word n-----. Once again, an important topic, or in this case, a word, is taken away from a school community, but adolescents today already know about the word in question. The author notes in “Huck Finn Navigating Choppy Waters Again”, that “They use it in the hallways. They hear it in music. They hear it all over the place” (Moore 3). Clearly, the youth of today knows about this word, so hearing it in a book would be no different from hearing it in a song. Furthermore, books with controversial topics can actually help people develop senses of empathy. Reading books about characters with lives different from the reader helps them to develop a sense of compassion for others, recent studies suggest (Bancroft 2). These controversial books can help adolescents to better understand what someone is going through. To summarize, banning a book has a major affect on the future and minds of adolescents by censoring content, or implying that it is wrong.
Banning a book from a community is an act that can have many calamitous effects. Desensitizing today’s generation, especially during middle school, the most important part of their lives, can severely affect their perspective on the world. Therefore, that generation will be faced with topics that they had not known about, because they were restricted from learning about those topics through literature. Students need to fight back. If a school bans a book, read it. Show the public education system that controversial topics in books, if never acknowledged, can devastate a child’s outlook on life.