Books have always been more than mere words on paper. Anyone who has read a book understands the ability of literature to unite people together, to challenge one’s ideas, and to inspire curiosity. But, more books have since been added to the list of banned books. Before a book gets banned, several factors are taken into account. While the book may be prohibited in one state, it may be included in the curriculum in another. Therefore, a book is never truly banned.
Many banned books have similar elements in common. Some commonalities have to do with racism, reality, grief, and bullying. Although certain books shouldn’t be read by certain age levels, outlawing them would deny a child who is old enough to read the book the chance to do so.
For instance, The Outsiders by S.E Hinton. This book is banned in many states for its portrayal of gang violence, underage smoking, and strong language. However, many are unaware of the fact that many schools include this book in their middle school English curriculum. This book, similar to other banned books, confronts serious issues such as poverty, insecurity, and violence.
Another prohibited novel is Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, but unlike the others, it has been moved from the banned to the restricted list. This book is also offered as part of the English curriculum. The book is about a troubled adolescent who following the death of his brother, and getting expelled from school, runs away to New York to escape his loneliness. From the protagonist’s experience, the reader can learn of the natural need for connection. Even if the reader is unable to identify with the protagonist, they can still draw inspiration from the character’s actions and learn how to deal with similar problems they may encounter.
Although many banned books may shield children and young adults from early exposure to inappropriate themes, they can also silence children, discouraging them from exploring challenging themes. Additionally, despite being restricted from reading, prohibited books get more attention and become more alluring as a result, defeating the purpose of the ban.
The controversy regarding banned books will undoubtedly remain complex as many debate the balance between upholding morality and endangering the right to freedom of speech and thought. While many argue on different sides for whether all books should be made available for reading or be censored, there is no definitive answer to this complexity. However, it is important that we as readers in this growing day and age recognize diverse perspectives and keep an open mind to differing ideas and opinions.