We’re talking about banning books when we should be talking about child safety
“A friend of mine has been shot! a shaken teenager told my son Friday afternoon after a sniper opened fire near a school in northwest Washington. It was, as measured in the grim arithmetic of our national gun violence epidemic, a minor incident. No one was killed.
Three adults and one child, my son’s friend’s classmate, were injured by bullets fired by a sniper from an apartment full of guns and ammunition across from Edmund School Burke.
But the scar toll that something like this takes does more tangible damage than any book about a child wonders if he’s gay. Books that deal with sexual orientation, in a country where same-sex marriage is the law of the land, are among the most targeted by this movement, which has attempted to link sexual and gender identity to pedophilia.
US schools issued at least 1,310 book bans in the last five months of 2021, including “Who is Barack Obama?” and “Muffin Wars,” according to the Pen America Index of ban on school books.
During that same August-December period, about 28,170 children were inside a school when bullets were fired, according to the Washington Post School Shootings Database.
“The effects of gun violence reverberate far beyond the child who has been hit by a bullet,” Sarah Burd Sharps, senior director of research for advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, told WebMD last week. “Children may mourn their friends who are now lost or worry about being next.”
She spoke about it when the New England Journal of Medicine said last week that gun violence is the top child killer in our nation. Homicide of children by firearm increased by more than 30% between 2019 and 2020, according to the newspaper.
Survival is the issue that should be at the forefront of the agenda of anyone claiming to lobby or legislate on behalf of children.
How many of us have felt more normal about puberty after reading Judy Blume? The same goes for children who can see themselves in books that address viewpoints beyond the predominantly white and male dominance of library shelves.
Instead, parents manipulated by fear-mongering politicians for their own gain target books that deal with race, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation.
Children watch parents scream at school board meetings and issue death threats against board members and librarians, and adults demand that books containing stories about people who look like or like them be burned. In Idaho, there is a proposal before the state legislature impose fines and prison sentences on librarians who lend books deemed “harmful” to children under 18.
He’s not a positive role model. Surely the shooting of four people at Timberview High School in Texas left lasting psychological trauma on more than 1,750 other students who were at school that day.
But don’t be afraid! Parents in this state have saved their youth from the pounds more than 700 times. Among the banned books is “A Home for Goddesses and Dogs”, a story about an 8th grade girl who recently lost her mother.
These stories about life are supposed to give you nightmares
In Florida, home to one of the deadliest school shootings in American history, a school district recently silenced “Everywhere Babies,” a charming book celebrating early childhood.
Some of the most impactful book bans have occurred in the greater Washington area, where Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin tapped parental fears about literature and drove them to the Virginia governor’s mansion. .
“Parents in Virginia are tired of the government dictating how to raise their children,” Youngkin wrote earlier this year in a Washington Post op-ed after a victory fueled by an illusion of parental empowerment.
If parents want to have a say in what their children read, they need to build relationships with their children that include discussions about what they read. Parent involvement is hard work. This is not done by censoring and limiting what everyone has access to.
Youngkin ran an ad campaign using Virginia’s mother Laura Murphy, who dabbled in book bans a decade ago when Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book ‘Beloved’ gave her night terrors in high school.
If reading a historically accurate account of the horrors of slavery gave this Virginia boy nightmares, imagine what happens with the children who had to cower under their desks while gunfire shattered windows and people were screaming on Van Ness Street last week.
Politicians who mistakenly focus on the culture wars are right about one thing: America needs to wake up, but to the trauma its children experience daily, and not just when reporters show up to document it.
Last week’s shooting drew attention because of its location. But the numbers show us that shootings in and around schools in less affluent areas are common. And children who live with gunshots carry that trauma throughout their lives.
The alarming increase in book bans, ostensibly in the name of child protection, is misplaced energy that ignores the real traumas that are part of the daily lives of American children, whether they are shot, scarred by gun violence or hiding in a supply closet with a teacher in a lockdown drill, preparing for something our nation has allowed to become a part of life.