Before I entered the world of writing, I shared my love of reading with kids as a middle-school librarian. My principal said there were three places on our campus students ran to: the gym, the cafeteria, and my library. It was an honor to be the recipient of stampeding readers. Within my library walls, I’d created a culture of choice. Students chose what they wanted to read and if they wanted to share it. They were safe.
I selected books that represented my readers. A sixth-grade student loved magic so I bought David Blaine and Criss Angel biographies and beefed up my 793.8 Dewey decimal section. He performed many card tricks at my circulation desk!
An elementary reader flew through his school’s fantasy titles. I invited him to my library and introduced him to Rick Riordan and Bryan Davis. Through books, I helped him work through several requirements for his Eagle Scout and jumped at his invitation to attend the ceremony.
Books matter. They knit us together. Make us feel whole. Feel seen.
I attended a literary conference and a high school librarian told me he hung a sign above his library’s entry that read, “There is guaranteed to be something in here to offend everyone.”
A politician hell-bent on keeping his evangelical base could have walked into my library and accused me of grooming children into witchcraft by promoting magic. Or another die-hard on keeping religion out of schools could accuse me of grooming children into Christianity through Bryan Davis’ religious-themed series.
Obviously, neither was true. My job was to put books into reader’s hands that readers wanted—to help them see themselves in a story—to flip their interests into inspiration.
A Book Is Banned
To challenge a book in our district, the challenger had to first read it and fill out a lengthy document describing why they felt the book was inappropriate. Most never got that far. People who don’t like books, often don’t read them.
But, one did—A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer. In his gut-wrenching memoir, Dave shares the horrific abuse he suffered as a child. The publisher reported up to ten letters a day from readers who said his childhood mirrored theirs. They felt seen. Not alone. Dave’s book sat on the New York Times Best Seller List for years and sold more than 1.6 million copies. It also was one of the most banned books during that same time.
Banning the book did not stop readers from reading it. It just made it harder for kids to. Kids that needed Dave’s message of resilience.
Some Disgusting Numbers
According to the American Library Association, 2021 recorded the highest number of banned books in more than twenty years, with 2022 expected to beat that number. Most of those titles target LGBTQ teens and those of color. The groomers aren’t the authors who write the books or the librarians and teachers who put them in the hands of the right readers, it’s the book banners. They are the ones trying to indoctrinate kids into their racist, homophobic, anti-women, twisted moral code.
Our Role as Writers
Write books you know will be banned. Why? Because those readers need those books. We must protect vulnerable kids from book-banning groomers. We must work harder, faster, embody our passion, and unite. We aren’t David, we are Goliath—and we aren’t afraid of their stone.