Silencing stories: The impact of book bans in West Ada schools

Illustration of empty bookcase. Illustration by Sydney Smith

The West Ada school district is under fire for yet another decision to remove a number of books from library shelves, this time banning 10 books during the month of December. 

In an email to CBS2 News, the district stated that its goal is simply to protect children from inappropriate content. 

“We are steadfast in ensuring that the materials available align with both age-appropriate and intellectual standards,” the district said. “This discerning approach underscores our commitment to fostering a space that is simultaneously stimulating and responsible.”

One of the books banned in December, “Milk and Honey”, is a poetry collection by Rupi Kaur that explores themes of love, loss, healing and empowerment. Divided into four sections, the book takes readers through the stages of pain, self-discovery and resilience, offering raw and impactful verses accompanied by simple illustrations.

“Milk and Honey” has faced controversy due to its explicit and frank exploration of sensitive topics, including abuse, trauma and sexuality. Some argue that the book’s content is too explicit or triggering for certain readers, leading to calls for bans in educational settings.

“The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel”, another book banned in December, is a visual adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel. It follows the story of Offred, a woman living in the oppressive society of Gilead. The graphic novel vividly portrays the challenges faced by Offred as she navigates a world defined by strict social hierarchies, fertility concerns and a totalitarian regime. The visual format adds a new dimension to Atwood’s powerful story, bringing the chilling tale to life through compelling illustrations.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” has been controversial for its depiction of a dystopian society that oppresses women, addressing themes like reproductive rights and religious extremism. Some critics argue that the book’s content is inappropriate or offensive, especially in educational contexts, leading to attempts to ban or restrict it.

While these books certainly contain content that an elementary school student shouldn’t be reading, completely removing books that contain heavy content from library shelves takes away opportunities for young readers to hear powerful stories and learn important lessons through books. 

If the district put age or grade restrictions on certain books, they would be protecting younger minds while still allowing older students to hear different perspectives about the world around them. Banning these books makes them less accessible to all students, especially to a  student whose family might not be in a position to buy books for them, which makes libraries and schools the only opportunity to read for some students. 

The West Ada school district won’t stop here. More than 30 other books including “The Kite Runner”, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “Slaughterhouse-Five” are being considered for removal from library shelves as well. 

Although parents, educators and librarians may have good intentions with their goal to protect young students from mature content, the West Ada school district is making a mistake by completely removing books like “Milk and Honey” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” from library shelves. Books like these that provoke thought and inspire action are critical to the future success of students today. 

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