Over and over we hear that there aren’t enough diverse books out there for kids. This is true, of course, but why is that? Is it because there are books that just aren’t given to kids because they are thought to be inappropriate? Banned Books week has come to a close and according to The Atlantic, “52 percent of the books challenged or banned in the last 10 years feature so-called ‘diverse content’—that is, they explore issues such as race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, mental illness, and disability.”
This past Banned Books Week followed the theme of diversity to celebrate all types of literature out there. But it’s hard to celebrate genuinely great literature that is unreasonably banned. How can kids experience diversity in literature when all of the diverse books are banned for egregious reasons?
Paul Ringel, an associate professor of history at High Point University, said the reason we don’t see enough books with diverse topics might be because “publishers today still haven’t figured out how to address the subject for younger children in a way that’s both historically accurate and acceptable to parents.”
Some parents, teachers, and librarians tend to agree that children’s literature should avoid discussing sensitive issues, or “controversial topics.” But what good is it doing to limit children literature so that they’re only engaging with one type of it?
It’s understandable that adults want to minimize children’s anxiety, and schools are often under intense social and financial pressure to maintain established standards. But it ‘s also important to recognize that this tradition was established in the 19th century to serve the needs of the white, wealthy Protestant producers and consumers who have dominated the field of American children’s literature for much of the past 200 years.
The Banned Book arena has always been controversial. Books are banned across the spectrum, because parents, teachers, and communities feel that they are inappropriate for a number of different reasons. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown was onced banned at a school in Wisconsin for being ‘un-American.’ What could possibly be more American than a story about NATIVE-Americans?
Regal also says,
Keeping books about certain types of children out of libraries perpetuates a vision of a sheltered American childhood that has rarely existed.
Dee Brown’s book is just one example, but there are many others. Diverse books do tend to be banned because there are seen as controversial, but they teach and open up a discussion that would not be present without them.
Featured image courtesy of Bustle