What Students Are Saying About Banning Books From School Libraries (Published 2022)

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Teenagers share their nuanced views on the various book banning efforts spreading across the country.

P T C f d a

In the article “Book Ban Efforts Spread Across the U.S.,” Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter write about the growing trend of parents, political activists, school board officials and lawmakers arguing that some books do not belong in school libraries.

As we regularly do when The Times reports on an issue that touches the lives of teenagers, we used our daily Student Opinion forum to ask teenagers to share their perspectives. The overwhelming majority of students were opposed to book bans in any form, although their reasons and opinions were varied and nuanced. They argued that young people have the right to read unsanitized versions of history, that diverse books expose them to a variety of experiences and perspectives, that controversial literature helps them to think critically about the world, and that, in the age of the internet, book bans just aren’t that effective. Below, you can read some of their comments organized by theme.

Thank you to all those from around the world who joined the conversation this week, including teenagers from Japan; Julia R. Masterman School in Philadelphia; and Patino High School in Fresno, Calif.

Please note: Student comments have been lightly edited for length, but otherwise appear as they were originally submitted.


Related Opinion EssayCredit…Andrew Mangum for The New York Times

I think the idea of people trying to censor speech is absolutely abhorrent. Right to freedom of speech, religion, peaceful assembly, petition, and press is our 1st amendment and one that we take for granted …

As a teenager I am still trying to find my way in this world; I want to know as many other viewpoints as possible so that I know my thoughts are my own and not just a product of a limited amount of information. Even if these books are not required reading they should be allowed in libraries. Families can decide what books are allowed in their homes but trying to force a community to get rid of a book is a way of forcing one’s beliefs on an entire community. Removing books about issues faced by marginalized groups is a way to ignore them, a way to minimize the issues faced by those groups and allow the banners to not have their opinions challenged. This is a democracy that should be open to discussion and if it is then people will find others who agree and disagree with them.


Students need the option to read books they enjoy or want to read. We often enjoy books that connect to us and sometimes that may be a tough topic such as rape, violence or even gender identity. Removing books with “inappropriate content” may sound like the right choice until we dive into what was actually deemed inappropriate. A book that has a character who is transgender may appeal to someone who identifies as transgender, this book may be enjoyable and relatable for that person. Maybe a student has past trauma that they may struggle to deal with, a book that has a topic based on their past may comfort them and bring them closure. These books also inform students on what really happens within the mind and life of someone else. Banning books is an overall loss for a school or library, it only limits human growth.


Reading the article and these comments just makes me think.”Jeez, the fact these books are being challenged shows how much some people need education on the subjects of them.” These books may have hard topics but they essentially are a needed part of education. They might be brutal and hard to swallow, but they are the best examples of real-world problems and history. They provide a good sense of realism and give kids somewhat of an idea of what goes on and has gone on in the world.

Challenging these books is like trying to protect someone from the world. Then instead shoving them in front of something that makes them think.”Everything will always work out,” And, “These things will never happen again.” It makes them think the world has no struggle or insanely big problems. When in reality it definitely does and they will be directly affected by these problems.

J, N

These books are important to both students and teachers alike. They are educational and factual and help teachers teach more effectively. I honestly think that books like “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie should be talked about in schools. They help educate on racism and discrimination. And it seems to me that the parents and politicians who voted for these books to be banned don’t want their children to be educated on these subjects. Honestly, it’s a shame that the youth of today can’t get the knowledge they need because of this.

C, C


While it’s reasonable to be concerned about the material your children are reading, as some material might not be age appropriate, there is almost never- honestly, never at all- justification for banning a book. When you look at novels like Maus, that was recently banned in a Tennessee school district for nudity and cursing, it becomes increasingly obvious what we are trying to erase- no history, no matter your opinion or concerns, should be hidden or erased, especially such horrible events like the Holocaust. If we don’t learn history, we can’t learn from it, and that is the most essential key to humanity…

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Books are the primary way to tell stories, to learn right from the mouths of people who have witnessed things we need to learn and grow from. Our society depends on the idea of future generations learning and progressing, and with the banning of books all we are doing is going backwards, not forwards.


According to Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter, those who are calling for certain books to be banned claim it’s an “issue of parental rights and choice,” and although parents have a right to monitor the media their children are consuming, they can’t take away access to controversial books for all children.

The article discusses how the group No Left Turn in Education claims “The Handmaid’s Tale” is used to “spread radical and racist ideologies to students.” However, Margaret Atwood, the author of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” has said that there was “nothing in the book that didn’t happen, somewhere.” Atwood used real history to create her dystopia, giving us an idea of what society could become if we don’t learn from history. If we ban books, we may end up repeating the same mistakes we’ve made before. In Ray Bradbury’s novel “Fahrenheit 451,” he details what the world might look like if books were banned, and while “Fahrenheit 451” is an extreme version of what could happen in the future, banning books could create an echo of Bradbury’s dystopia.

Hiding away things that make us uncomfortable doesn’t make them go away. Even if we don’t talk about it, racism, sexual assault, genocide, and many other complex issues will still exist. We have to face the discomfort to keep it from happening again. While those supporting the book-banning movement claim that it’s an issue of parental rights, it’s really an issue of people trying to ban things that make them uncomfortable.

D, B

If parents start trying to ban books that are intended to be informational and tell the story of certain minorities the history can start to slowly fade away. For instance, say parents and governments can now dictate what we should and shouldn’t learn soon enough as more generations come there will no longer be the acknowledgement of the Holocaust and the horror of what Hitler did, he will just be another “bad leader”. This will lead younger minds into believing that no one and no country is capable of such horror like slavery or concentration camps but the fact is they are.


As a student who has read most of the “challenged books” whether that be for school or just on my own, I feel that banning these books would be one of the worst ideas ever. For the younger generations it is so important to gain knowledge about the injustice others face constantly. By banning books with important context, we risk the inception of more racial injustice within our society as a whole. No matter how horrible our history is, it is more important now than ever that students are well informed to prevent repeating history.



Watch more videos on the same topic : Nationwide effort to ban books challenges freedom of speech

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Advocates are sounding the alarm about a set of measures that they say target teaching and writing related to LGBTQ issues, race and freedom of speech. Around the country, efforts to ban specific books or even whole categories of books are on the rise. Jeffrey Brown has a conversation for our arts and culture series,

Jack Petocz, a 17-year-old student in Flagler Beach, Fla., with the book “All Boys Aren’t Blue” at his home in Florida. Related ArticleCredit…Todd Anderson for The New York Times

I am part of the LGBT+ community, specifically nonbinary and pansexual, and books discussing LGBT+ topics or even featuring queer and trans characters are a continuous target for banning. Erasing LGBT+ people and experiences from literature creates a sense of otherness for queer and trans people, especially queer and trans youth. Also, having books with LGBT+ topics and characters constantly in contention of whether they will be banned or not has an effect on LGBT+ youth because it shows them that their existence is a topic of debate. I, personally, had no queer or trans influences until I was in middle school. If I had books with LGBT+ characters or were about real LGBT+ people, my feelings would have been validated much earlier. My feelings of not feeling “like a girl” or feeling some kind of attraction towards girls, I would’ve had a name for them and realized that it was normal because it is. Queer and trans experiences are valid and normal and literature that shows that is incredibly important.


I personally believe that removing books about sexual assault, gender, sexuality, and racism is not right. Having access to those types of books is important because it helps us as students learn more about people’s perspectives and helps us become more open-minded in the real world. To put it in another way—if we are not exposed to books that discuss the struggles of people all around our country, then it limits us from understanding each other. Sometimes the content can be uncomfortable to read, but it is necessary to understand the lives of others.

H, D

As a gay male, seeing attempts to remove LGBTQIA+ content from shelves is almost hurtful. All my life, books have been about the same thing; two straight, white people meet and fall in love. But in recent years, I’ve finally had access to literature that I can identify with. I can relate to characters who realize they don’t identify as straight, and find the same gender as them attractive. I can relate to those characters who have a family member or family members that think they’re disgusting or sinful for being attracted to those of the same sex. Because of how I can relate to these pieces of literature, it helps me know that I am not the only one to go through this, and there are others who share my story. By banning books, children are being told they should stick to the group they were born into, but that mindset is what led our country into the state it exists in. No one can agree on anything because no one understand every side of the story. Without diverse literature and proper education, our country could never move forward. Leave the books be.

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If these books get taken down for inappropriate content, we need to find out the root reason why…Is it because these books talk about severe racism, sexuality, gender, and real-life harms? Why shouldn’t people learn how to identify, treat others with respect, understand how to help/support your BIPOC community, support victims, and understand the horrors inflicted upon LGBTQIA BIPOC people? Learning or understanding these issues will better your society, the empathy people have for others and have a way to have self-empowerment and community.


People in the L.G.B.T.Q community and in the minority groups use these books as an outlet, and a way to connect to the world to feel support…By removing these books, it creates a sense and feeling of not being accepted, or to have the right to be a part of the communities. I personally get a feeling that with the schools removing these books, it opens a feeling of shame. It silences these groups, these communities, these people, resulting in making them not feel valid, or even humanized.

Just like Petocz, I am also a student in school, and during these times of removing these books, it worries me that my passion for knowledge, and my passion for understanding my society and myself, will be hindered by someone’s views on what is acceptable and what is not.


In school libraries, I think there should be more books around less popularized topics like drug addiction, black authors, LGBTQ stories, and non-American authors. These books are eye-opening encourages you to challenge your way of thinking. I recently read a book about drug addiction and I learned to destigmatize recovering drug addicts because I know how easily someone can become addicted (Heroine, McGinnis). The book also discouraged drug use through honest education and brought less well-known side effects to light


Simply banning books because they’re too much of a “sensitive topic” will only harm young readers. Books are supposed to enhance our understanding of topics, history, etc. The books that are on the list of being banned are all books that help readers understand certain topics to a significant extent. As someone who’s never had a human figure to ask about sensitive topics with, books helped me answer my questions and curiosity among the topics.



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Students, parents and educators gathered on Sept. 20 outside the Educational Service Center for the Central York School District to protest the district’s banned resources list. | Related articleCredit…Dan Rainville/ York Daily Record, via USA Today Network

I think, regardless of whether or not libraries should stock “inappropriate” books, banning books has the opposite of the intended effect. While it may have been successful in the last because schools and libraries were the only real way to be exposed to books—aside from buying them—now it is way too easy to find whatever information you need online. Kids are naturally curious; if you tell them they can’t read a book—especially if it’s inappropriate—they’re going to try to read that book, and more likely than not, they’re going to be able to access it online. I believe banning books is unjust and erasing important points of view, but more importantly, I believe that it’s ineffective.


I think the attempt to remove books from school libraries is pointless and a waste of time. If a student wants to read a book they can just go to a public library or the internet. The internet makes all of these efforts pointless. There is so much information on the internet that can be considered way more controversial. And the internet is in almost every child’s hands.


In my opinion, the best way for a parent to address their concerns to a school over a book is to have a civil conversation with the school, to either help guide the parent in how to talk their child through the content that they may be worried about or find a solution that results in something like a warning tag on the book, rather than the removal of the book altogether.


Living in a very diverse and complex society, families should learn to accept that students are exposed to a range of thoughts and opinions. If you prefer to stay away from the content of a specific book—don’t read it! In a case where a book you dislike is required and is being taught in class, communicate with the teachers and nicely share your concerns! Still, as students of this generation, we should learn to cooperate and adapt to the environment we are in, for we won’t always have the option to ‘ban’ whatever and whenever we want.



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There has been a growth in the number of books being challenged by parents and activists. I can see the reason for concern. There are some books which are fairly intense, the messages of which could be misconstrued by younger children. However, first off, a great many of these complaints are being directed to school libraries, where staff and educators devote time in their classes to the careful analysis of such books. In such an environment, the idea that a reader would misinterpret the work as a promotion of gore or sex seems fairly far-fetched.

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Secondly, the benefit these books have on students far outweighs the risks. Ultimately, though there are a few books written for cheap thrills—for the “oohs” and “aahs” of shock and other emotions—many works are written for the purposes of sharing the author’s viewpoint and the way they have experienced the world. We read books, especially in classrooms, to grow our understanding of the world and to enlighten ourselves with the experiences of others so that we can apply our learnings to our own lives. To strike a book for violence, sex, or sexuality is to say that these subjects are not worthwhile to learn about, that they are not relevant to our lives in the real world. Reality is not censored or sanitized; reality is full of experiences dealing with these subjects, and we owe it to the coming generations to make them ready to process those experiences.


I think there are certainly better ways for concerned parents to be placated without going as far as banning books in school libraries. They could work to establish systems that flag books that could contain or do contain “sensitive” topics. Then only with parental permission could a student check out a flagged book. It’s inconsiderate to take opportunities to read and learn about topics important and sentimental to kids away from an entire school of students just because a few parents don’t like their kids reading those same topics.

A, M

It is essential for students to have relatively unrestricted access to books describing race and LGBTQ issues. However, I think that pledging to represent “all perspectives” of certain topics in libraries creates a slippery slope.

Take the book Maus, for example. Having read the book in 8th grade, I would strongly recommend it to all students due to its presentation of honest descriptions of the Holocaust in a digestible manner for teenagers, and I believe this book should be kept in school libraries. However, I worry some would attempt to create a “balanced” perspective for students by placing Holocaust-denying books in the library as well, even though the genocide’s existence, scale, and horror is indisputable.

We should, by all means, allow students to absorb multiple opinions and ideas. We should let students read both Ayn Rand and Karl Marx. But we must not allow this quest for balance, for a wholistic perspective, to corrupt our youth with misinformation and flat-out lies.


The efforts to erase books of certain topics is outrageous. Many of these are removed because of sensitive issues that they are worried will make the reader uncomfortable but the author didn’t write these books or topics so that the reader can feel comfortable … There are regardless going to be stories that are questioned but in most cases, they shouldn’t be banned/removed because who has the right to ban literature? And who decides what students can handle with subjects?



Related Opinion EssayCredit…Lechatnoir/Getty Images

I feel that by banning books that talk about certain topics you are limiting what a child can think…One of my favorite quotes is by Haruki Murakami. “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” I think that this quote is very important, especially now because this is what banning books will do to us. If we ban books that talk about topics but leave only books that talk about one, we can only think about that one topic and we can only think about what they want us to think. By banning books you’re banning knowledge, banning opinions, banning our future.


Presenting kids with varying ideologies and different types of stories is really helpful, it encourages critical thought, it can shape emotional reactions in a very low risk way, and for a lot of students it is presents representations of themselves that they find comforting. Even when parents argue that books are dangerous, there is far more to be said for the help and comfort they can provide. Even books like Maus – that forced me to understand more the reality of my Jewish identity and the history of my culture – even when it was painful, present such immense value in intellectual and emotional development. It makes me very sad to think that students in Tennessee no longer have this opportunity in there schools


When situations like this arise, I think that they always show how one pathed the education system is, and how it is getting even worse. Without these types of books that challenge regular thinking patterns, it will be like millions of clones are being released into the world at graduation. I am very set that these books should be allowed in schools because they cause students, such as myself, to think outside of the box. That may be present in learning about something unknown, such as another continent’s history, or learning about struggles experienced by others that you weren’t aware of happening. Without these books, both experience and expansive knowledge are highly limited, stopping students from growing into their potential to progressively change the world.


I think that by removing books from libraries you are taking away peoples’ stories and creativity. Therefore, you are lessening the creative thinking in students.


Many times, schools try to “hide” kids from real world history or issues like over policing or the Holocaust. They try to teach kids “pretty” history by numbing down what content kids are actually taking in. I believe that this is hindering kids all over the United States because it promotes them to think almost in a bubble, in the sense that they cannot fully grasp why some things are bad or why they are learning about them. This causes the kids to almost laugh these subjects off, which in turn means that these students become oblivious to what is going on around them, which promotes things like racism and the holocaust as almost a joke, meaning that these issues will never be tackled because of how oblivious kids are to them.



This is nothing less than a display of homophobia, transphobia, and any other kind of hate based on gender and sexual identitiy from those advocating to remove these books. Schools should treat LGBTQ students the same as they treat cisgendered individuals. But when books about the former’s experiences are banned, those students are likely to feel unwelcome and unsafe in what is supposedly a good place for adolescents to be. If lawmakers and school boards were banning all books having to do with gender and sexuality, including when it has to do with people outside of the LGTBQ community, this would not be as bad. But the truth is that the LGBTQ community is being targeted. The hatred that fills the heart of lawmakers and members of school boards is on full display here. It is simply wrong for them to impose their own anti-LGBTQ beliefs on the students under their control.


If parents want to get rid of any romance books with gay characters, they’d better be prepared to get rid of all romances, because otherwise it’s unequal. I think that efforts across the nation to remove books discussing racism and other social issues are essentially efforts to silence the voices of others … Does The Hate U Give, an eye-opening novel about being a young black girl in America, really have to be considered equal to Adolph Hitler’s autobiography in the eyes of a school?


The efforts of parents, activists, and lawmakers across the nation to remove books mainly about race, gender, and sexuality is absolutely ridiculous. The fact that a good amount of these protests are specifically conservative groups pushing their challenges into statehouses, law enforcement and political races does hint at discriminatory practices. Politics and personal agendas are being brought into a place where there is such a diverse collection of books—or graphic novels—that anyone should be allowed to access in their library if they choose to do so. Challenging books in this manner is like getting upset that another person is eating a chocolate chip cupcake, since you’re the one on a diet.


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  1. Those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it. But we don’t ever learn, and we always repeat. Teaching is a method of control. Those who are good do it. Those who are eviL do it ( teach for reasons of control ). We must learn a better way.

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