In March, the Ada County Commissioners denied a petition to dissolve the Meridian Library District.
The group who petitioned to dissolve the library district, Concerned Citizens of Meridian, presented a list of over 50 books containing material that they deemed harmful to minors.
Justifications presented for restricting these books included LGBTQIA+ content, promoting anti-police views, discussing gender identity and sex education, promoting Islam and bias against male students.
There have been many requests across the nation to ban books for minors based on content that tackles issues like racism or LGBTQIA+ stories.
According to PEN America, between July 2021 to July 2022, the state of Texas had 751-1,000 book bans, Florida had 501-750, Tennessee and Pennsylvania had 251-500, while Idaho had 26-50 bans.
Within the 1,648 books banned during this time, PEN America states that 41% contain LGBTQ+ themes or had LGBTQ+ protagonists and characters, 21% addressed issues of race and racism, 22% contained sexual content including sexual assault, abortion, puberty, sex, or relationships, and 4% included characters and stories that reflect religious minorities.
It’s very clear that the groups pushing to ban books with these themes and ideas are attempting to prevent minors from exploring content outside of what they believe in or support directly.
Maoria Kirker, lead of the Teaching and Learning Team at George Mason University Libraries, stated that books give students the ability to learn about the world and experience diverse characters and points of view.
Many minors aren’t able to travel outside of their local community, so reading stories is important in their development of building empathy and is essential to critical thinking when it comes to looking at history, ideas and other concepts from more than one perspective.
“Banning books also has the potential to create significant gaps in knowledge for young learners,” Kirker said in an interview with George Mason University.
Kirker also explained that banning books creates a ripple effect and that even though families are allowed to restrict what their own children read, they shouldn’t be able to enforce that on other families as banning books takes away the opportunity from other children.
I believe many people underestimate what children and teenagers are able to consume and understand. Reading stories that are different from our own is critical in learning to accept others and being open to ideas and concepts that are foreign.
Many children and teens may seek out certain books to find validation in themselves and have representation that they identify with.
As an example, banning LGBTQIA+ stories simply for having LGBTQIA+ content feeds into the narrative that being a part of the community is bad or inappropriate when that is far from the truth.
Books should not be banned strictly because a certain group of individuals finds them harmful. Everyone has differing views, and one person’s thoughts shouldn’t dictate what another person is allowed to do or, in this case, read.
Approximately 500 people showed up to testify on Monday, March 20, during the second public hearing on the petition to dissolve the Meridian Library District.
Though the vote from the Ada County Commissioners was unanimous, I expect this will not be the last time a group will come forward attempting to ban books at libraries or in Idaho schools.
The community must continue to stick together to protect these books as they are extremely valuable to the development of young children.