There is only so much time in a school day and room on a bookshelf. Both must be filled with things that foster curiosity, cultivate knowledge, and enrich the imagination. It is also important that neither include things that seek to destroy childhood innocence, supplant the family values of students, or set children on a destructive path in life. Unfortunately, in the past few years, parents have discovered that many books in their children’s schools serve the latter’s purpose more than the former, and they have spoken loudly and clearly about their objections. 

Parents who courageously speak up at school board meetings about the books available to their children without their consent or knowledge aren’t “book banners” or overprotective prudes. They know the harm that early exposure to sexually explicit or pornographic material can do to young children, and they are doing their best to protect their own from irreversible damage. Though it doesn’t take a degree in psychology to conclude that adult material is inappropriate for children, plenty of professionals have weighed in on the matter. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (ACPeds) warns that:

“Children suffer many negative effects due to modern society’s exposure to and acceptance of pornography.  These negative effects include mental disturbance and unrest for the young school-age child, including acting out and violent behavior.  Because of its harmfulness to children, pornography must never be used as a tool to teach children human sexuality.” 

Interestingly, an organization “dedicated to the health and well-being of children” states that this material should not be used as a teaching tool while advocates of these books, like The American Library Association (ALA) and the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, GLSEN, actively promote them and even provide them to schools and classrooms free of charge. Should parents trust the medical professionals who are experts in child development, or should they rely on the opinions of well-funded organizations with social and political agendas?

It’s not just ACPeds that warns of the dangers of early exposure to sexually explicit and pornographic material. A variety of studies have shown the damaging effects of it. Since the mid-1990s, there has been a national campaign to curb teen pregnancy. While that is a noble cause, it is ironic that this current campaign to expose children to pornography will likely lead them to earlier sexual activity. “Out of 8 studies that assessed earlier age of first sex, 5 studies…found a statistically significant association with exposure to pornography.” 

Not only is it harmful to their healthy sexual development in their early years, but it can lead to relational problems later in life as well. Studies have shown that “pornography negatively impacts marriage and long-term cohabitating couples, making them more vulnerable to divorce or dissolution, and this in turn has negative health effects for the children involved.” If Brad Wilcox is correct (and he has plenty of research to support his conclusion) that strong families provide the best form of stability necessary for true human flourishing, then the destruction or disruption of this possibility by introducing pornography to children is not only harmful but a grave injustice. 

So, how can parents counter this attack on their children’s innocence? First, be aware of the books that are available to them in their classrooms and school libraries. If you are still getting familiar with the books they select, you can use tools like RatedBooks to help you determine if they are appropriate. Second, if you find inappropriate books, challenge their presence in the school. Find out what the process is in your local district and take the necessary steps to protect your children from inadvertently being exposed to pornography. Parents must continue to expose and eradicate sexually explicit material from schools. Finally, contribute to the Good Book Drive to help Freedom In Education fill bookshelves with wholesome quality literature that will nourish the hearts and minds of the students who read it. 

There is only so much time in a school day and room on a bookshelf. We can advocate for removing harmful material from both, but we must also be ready and willing to step up and offer alternatives and solutions. The good news is that there are thousands of beautiful, high-quality books to choose from. Students shouldn’t have to settle for poorly written, inappropriate selections, and parents shouldn’t worry about losing their innocence each time they visit the library. 

This article was originally published in December 2023 on the Freedom In Education website.