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Book Challenges Undermine Public Schools

Across America, a small minority of people seeking to undermine our schools point to individual books and declare unilaterally that they are inappropriate.

All schools have clear rules for each book; where it is shelved, what ages can check it out, etc. There are also rules and processes for reviewing each book before it is purchased, and again if it is questioned. These processes usually entail a team of dedicated librarians and teachers fully involved in our kids’ lives and who understand what is age appropriate and what is not. They also know that challenging kids with different ideas at the right age is actually the best thing for our kids, and our society as a whole.

Over and over in the last few months, a small number people are trying to undermine our schools and libraries by claiming that short scenes or graphics in books are pornographic or otherwise unfit for our kids to read. There is a growing use of book protests seeking to ban selected books. Some of these books are award-winning for their careful and sensitive portrayal of important issues.

When a book is questioned, librarians and teachers review the targeted books, read them thoroughly, consider the age-appropriateness and make their fully informed professional decisions. Repeatedly, these professionals find that the books should go back to the shelves with the appropriate rules for our kids.

We can point to the reviews of books in Fairfax County and also in Virginia Beach (two widely different parts of our state) that resulted in complete reinstatement of the challenged books.

I fully support parents questioning what their kids learn and applaud parents who are fully involved in their children's education. That said, a small subset of people cannot set the rules for everyone and cannot prevent other kids or their parents from seeking a variety of ideas, concepts, and viewpoints.

We need to support our public education teachers and other professionals as they work hard to provide our kids a variety of tools to understand the world around them. These book challenges, while appropriate enough for parents to start, are consistently overturned by our existing procedures and review protocols. The processes work to carefully protect both parents who want restrictions and those that want access for their kids.

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