Once again, it’s Banned Books Week, the annual event from the American Library Association (ALA) that “draws national attention to the harms of censorship.” As in most previous recent years, the ALA’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books list is once again full of children’s books with LGBTQ content—so go read some banned books with your kids today.
The top five books in the American Library Association’s (ALA’s) list of the most challenged books in the U.S. last year are there because of their LGBTQ content, among other reasons. “Challenges” are documented requests to remove materials from schools or libraries, calculated by the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF). On average, OIF finds that 10 percent of challenges result in the removal of the book.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with the history of book challenges in the U.S. The classic Heather Has Two Mommies has been challenged at least 42 times. Others, like And Tango Makes Three and Uncle Bobby’s Wedding have also been frequent targets. Librarians are often champions of these books and the freedom to read, however—see my 2008 piece on the first challenge to Uncle Bobby’s Wedding and a librarian’s awesome response.
More recently, in 2015, librarians, free speech groups, teachers’ organizations, and other authors and advocates rallied in support of two LGBTQ-themed picture books that had been challenged by 52 patrons of the Hood County Library in Texas: Gayle Pitman’s picture book about Pride parades, This Day in June, and Cheryl Kilodavis’ My Princess Boy, an ode to her child and other transgender and gender non-conforming children. Pitman wrote a good piece today for the OIF blog about the experience. The Hood County Commissioners, after a contentious meeting, ultimately overturned the challenge, allowing the books to remain on the shelves, she tells us. And just this month, Pitman’s book was challenged at the West Chicago Avenue branch of the Chicago Public Library, but the library board voted to keep it where it was in the children’s section.
Pitman also relates that in a radio show featuring one of the Texas challengers, “one of the interviewers very clearly stated that, in order to protect children from the LGBT ‘lifestyle,’ violence would be an acceptable response to books like This Day in June.”
That’s particularly frightening in light of this story from Ukraine, where the book Maya And Her Moms, by Larysa Denysenko, which features same-sex parents and many other types of families, was pulled from a large book fair because of the fear of violence.
Censorship through violence has been a sign of repressive regimes throughout history. It doesn’t belong in Ukraine, in the U.S., or anywhere in the world. If you don’t want your children to read certain books, that’s your prerogative as a parent, but that viewpoint shouldn’t be imposed on others.
Pitman offers some suggestions for supporting the freedom to read during Banned Books Week, including reading and talking about LGBTQ-themed children’s books. Need some ideas? Check out the recently updated Mombian Shop. And be sure to thank the authors, librarians, and others you see standing up against censorship.
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