Books don't abuse young people. They don't enslave them, beat them, or sell them as property. They don't withhold food or love or other basic necessities. They don't give kids controlled substances. Books don't engage in human trafficking. They don't drop bombs on children's homes, leveling their cities, towns, or villages. Books don't burn the crops of indigenous families and starve out entire people groups. Books don't bring guns to school and murder as many students and teachers they possibly can. They don't sell their daughters as child brides to the highest bidder, and they don't force little boys to become soldiers in endless wars.
Then why are people banning books? Let me venture a guess: because it is ever so much easier to go after books than it is to go after actual people who are harming children--full stop.
So stop it.
My mother's husband molested me for years when I was a child. He was a funny, talented, charismatic guy who sang in our church choir. A lot of people liked him.
In all actuality, he is a pedophile who molested more children than just me.
Because of his popularity and visibility in the church, I had no recourse--I was at the mercy of a man who had no mercy. I was a victim of child sexual abuse before Oprah burst out of our television sets and empowered us to find our voices and tell someone what was happening. You know what I wish I would have had back then?
I was a voracious reader, but I did not have the book I wish I'd had. What I needed was a novel about someone who was going through the same thing I was so I could begin to imagine how my own abuse might end. Even though it would have been a fictional story, it would have rung true for me and many, many others. To think, some writer out there could have articulated for me what I could not--it would have given me hope that perhaps I, too, could be rescued from the hell I was trying to survive.
I didn't have that book.
I am writing a book right now about a girl who is groomed and molested by her principal at a private, religious school and, I promise you, everything that should happen in a situation like that... does happen in this book.
And, yet, I feel that in our current climate where the loudest, most belligerent people in the room seem to be getting their way (common sense and any semblance of reason be damned) my book will be deemed 'inappropriate' and that the words I've written will pose some sort of inherent threat to any child who reads it.
You know what I think is an inherent threat and phenomenally inappropriate? Actually molesting children. In fact, the word inappropriate doesn't hum quite so well when it comes to child abuse as my preferred word, felony, does it? But instead of going after real-life child molesters who do serious harm to children, some would rather go after authors like me who simply write about it. I say, how about we all get on the same PAGE, as it were, and protect children from actually being molested instead of pretending that we're protecting children from reading about it?
Doesn't sound like your cup of tea? Great. Then don't read my book, and don't let your children read it either. I would never try to stop you or slow you down from doing what you think is best for your own children. But don't attempt to prevent children in other people's families from reading it. Any effort that thwarts a child's chance at safety is unconscionable, full stop.
But here we are, banning books like it's 1984.
I've written about the fact that parents need to be aware of what their children are consuming, whatever the source: books, movies, games, and social media. If and when parents find something they don't want their child to be exposed to, by all means, they should intervene accordingly. But parents who do not want other people making decisions for their children cannot, in turn, impose their opinions on other families.
Kids find themselves in all manner of circumstances, and kids need to be able to find themselves in a book. Kids also need to find others in books--kids unlike themselves. This builds compassion and empathy. This movement some have engaged in where they are turning a blind eye to racism, misogyny, ableism, homophobia, xenophobia, and all the other phobias and isms there are in the world (as well as hunger, poverty, addiction, abuse and war) is harming children by dismissing and denying their lived realities. Ripping books out of kids' hands is not going to make what is truly happening in their lives go away just because some find it uncomfortable to address, and the mind-numbing sense of entitlement on the part of some blows me away. If they have their way, we will be as ill-equipped as ever to solve our problems. Instead, we need to acknowledge the lived realities of children and their families in this country and around the world and work together to stabilize every situation we possibly can.
It's what I and a lot of other kidlit authors are doing--by writing the best books we can about the world as we know it. Until my own book is published, here are some books by some excellent writers who are making the world a better, kinder, safer place for all of us by telling fictional stories that are absolutely true.
Read them or don't. Just don't ban them. Spoiler alert--these books already are or have been banned, and it's a travesty.
by Meg Medina
(The best book about bullying I've ever read.)
I hope you're still reading this. If you have not rolled your eyes through this whole post and dismissed me as a [fill in this blank with some derogatory label commonly used to describe people that some folks do not agree with] then #1 - THANK YOU and #2 - Please list books you love that have been banned in the comments and all over social media so that others may buy them or borrow them and read them! It's also a good idea to request books to your local libraries if they don't currently provide them.
Daisy Rain Martin has spent over 25 years in the classroom and has managed to preserve her sanity—mostly. Actually, she feels quite blessed to be doing what she loves. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology (1990), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction (2004) as well as a Master of Fine Arts in writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota (2021).
In the summers, you can find Daisy in her gardens with her husband or in her office writing. As often as she can, though, she loves spending time with her grandbaby, Wiggle, who was born on her birthday and her grandniece, Giggle, who was born on Christmas Eve. Truly, she writes for them.
If you are interested in having Daisy speak for your school district, provide professional development for your staff, or visit your school to talk to students, please contact her through this website.