In a recent interview, First Lady Jill Biden claimed that, “All books should be in the library. All books. This is America. We don’t ban books.” The First Lady had been asked whether parents should be weighing in on what books are in libraries and what children are taught, and if some books should be reviewed. Her response echoed the message of Banned Books Week, an annual event sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) that promotes controversial books. How much do you know about Banned Books Week? Can you identify which of the following is the lie?
A. Books featured in libraries and bookstores during Banned Books Week have not been banned.
B. Libraries have an obligation to make ALL books available to children.
C. Parents have a right to direct the upbringing, care, and education of their children, and to express concerns about exposure to sexually explicit books.
Let’s take these statements one at a time:
A. TRUTH. The top ten “most challenged” books featured in Banned Books Week materials are available in public libraries, school libraries, and bookstores across the country. Questions about 9 out of 10 of the books have been raised by parents due to the books’ sexually explicit content. While some school boards and libraries have reviewed the explicit books on the list and deemed them inappropriate for children, there are no blanket bans on the books and they are readily available to students and parents. The graphic novel “Gender Queer” contains “illustrations of sexual activity include masturbation, oral sex, sex toys, kissing in an implied sex position, erections, and a fantasy image of a man holding another’s penis.” One book on the list, “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” has appeared in middle school classrooms and libraries, but includes detailed descriptions of “consensual sex and a sexual assault.” “This Book is Gay,” provides sexually explicit instructions and drawings and encourages readers to use sex apps. “Beyond Magenta” describes multiple instances of sex abuse, pedophilia, and young children engaging in sexual behavior.
B. LIE. Public libraries, as well as school libraries and classrooms, have limited space and resources, and must prioritize which books to purchase and feature. The First Lady’s suggestion that “all books should be in the library” is not achievable from a fiscal or logistical perspective. Libraries are not legally obligated to purchase every book published, and must regularly decide which books to purchase with public funds. This includes ensuring that books are age appropriate for children. Elected school board officials are tasked with oversight of their school districts’ libraries and classroom resources. When parents express concerns about books that introduce sexually explicit content to children, and school boards instruct libraries to review and consider removing the books, both parents (as taxpayers) and school board members (as stewards of public funds) are ensuring that resources are used in a way to prioritizes the needs of students.
C. TRUTH. Parents have the right to raise concerns about library and classroom books. Children are not mere creatures of the state, and parents do not simply turn children over to government schools with the assumption that the school will make every decision—without parental input—on what the child will read and be taught. The Supreme Court ruled in Pierce v. the Society of Sisters that the state may not unreasonably interfere with the right of “parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control.” When parents see the American Library Association, which will be led by a self-proclaimed Marxist next year, the organizations that bestow awards upon aggressively woke and sexually explicit books, and the school librarians stocking and featuring developmentally inappropriate books, parents can and should speak up.
Children deserve access to books that enhance their knowledge and introduce them to a wide variety of perspectives. They also deserve protection from exposure to sexual content that is not age-appropriate. If school libraries continue to ignore parents’ concerns and expose children to developmentally inappropriate content, then parents should be given access to education scholarship accounts that empower them to enroll their children in schools that will prioritize academic instruction and protect their innocence.