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Book Bans: More Bad Than Good

School districts are removing books from schools and banning them from being taught. Most of the targeted literature is by people of color who discuss race and  LGBTQ issues. 


February 18, 2024

By Sophia Labordo

NORTH CAROLINA—With the spring semester starting for thousands of schools across the nation, children of all ages are sent to both public and private schools with the expectation of learning and gaining new insights. Many learn from online material and physical lectures, but most learn from books. However, school districts are banning certain books from being taught in  curricula or made  available in school libraries. While education is handled independently per district and differs per state, is this the correct move for school districts? What are the impacts of banning information?

In 2023 alone, 3,362 individual books were banned across  the US, an increase of 33% from the previous academic year, according to PEN America. These books are challenged by local school boards, often fueled by the complaints of board  members or parents of students who deem the book “unfit” to be in schools.

While book bans are instigated by worried parents, do they truly  benefit students? One North Carolina English Language Arts teacher doesn’t believe so, and instead says that book bans are silencing important voices.

“Students are impacted because they're not able to explore different lenses through which they can view [and] learn about various topics, points in history, and even navigate identity,” explains Bertie High School ELA teacher Shainah Andrews. “The message that is communicated, to me, when banning books is ‘we are banning these specific communities. We are saying your stories aren't important and your stories are so telling that we can't afford generations to come to know the truth about what happened in order to prevent them from initiating a better future.’ Banning books is like sweeping what needs to come to the surface under the rug.” Andrews states.

More than 50% of the books targeted by the bannings contain  characters of color or LGBTQ characters. For example, “Dear Martin” written by Nic Stone is one of sixteen banned books in schools across the state of North Carolina, and is about the struggles of a black high schooler in a predominantly white preparatory high school. Despite the important message and awareness the book is spreading, it is banned in many schools across the nation. 

“Why is it that folks who are marginalized and enduring numerous -isms must do so in order to keep non-marginalized communities comfortable? There is research that shows that reading fiction actually helps people develop empathy and helpful behaviors; isn't so much more of that needed in our country?” Andrews continued.

Minorities are the ones most affected by book bans. With the number  of books banned each year only increasing by the thousands as time passes, not only do minority students lose more of their already limited voice and representation in schools, but their peers won’t learn how to understand or empathize with them. This breeds a new generation of racism and aggression to the non-majority—an ever-growing problem not just in schools, but throughout the world. 

Bertie County Schools Superintendent Otis Smallwood adds that “Everyone has a fundamental right to read and authentically express themselves. Reading and authentic writing are fundamental for students' academic progress along with social [and] emotional well-being. Students should be able to read a plethora of genres of reading materials. As a society, we learn and grow from different perspectives and experiences of others.”

Smallwood states, “I do believe parents have a right to monitor and decide what is in the best interest for their child [or] children but that should not cause book bans across the board in districts, libraries, and in schools.”

According to Smallwood, books are an important part of a student’s development to learn about the different experiences of others. He does not believe that books should be banned and that a child’s reading material should depend on parents, not entire districts.

If schools are banning books on minority communities, then what else could they prohibit?

Recently, a Florida county has pulled dictionaries and encyclopedias off of their shelves for allegedly inappropriate content. If schools are banning dictionaries—a basic educational book— what message is that sending to the students?

Bans on intellectual material widens the scope of the issue, not only affecting minority students but limiting all children’s access to information. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 79% of US adults are literate. With the continuation of book bans, this number could become lower as  schools prioritize their own beliefs over the quality of education. 

School districts banning books from being available in libraries or taught in schools is conducive to  banning the option to explore specific narratives or ideas that are essential to a student’s growth. Children are expected to be the adults of the future, but how can they successfully be the next generation when education is being restricted? With even school staff and board members questioning the decision to ban books, is this really the right step? Banning books, especially in an educational setting, should never occur unless schools want their future to be uneducated and close-minded. 

To learn more on banned books, visit PEN America


Gilbard, M. (2023, September 6). What you need to know about the book bans sweeping the U.S. Teachers College - Columbia University.,s%2C 

2023 banned books update: Banned in the USA. PEN America. (2023, August 21). 

Adult Literacy in the United States. Adult literacy in the United States. (n.d.). 


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