On Book Bans…Again – Pernille Ripp

I keep thinking about book bans.

About the kids whose existence we say doesn’t belong in the stories on our shelves. About the kids whose lives are not accepted in our spaces; classroom, libraries, hallways, and schools.

About the lives we don’t share in our book clubs, read alouds, or mentor text explorations. Because we are scared to be challenged. because we are directed to censor. Because we are told to remove titles. To withdraw invitations. To not share things that may potentially offend.

About the kids whose lives need to be validated and protected in this continued time of hate in the US.

In the land of the free, we have always known only some are truly free. Free to be the center of attention. Free to hold the power. Free to be held up as something worth paying attention to.

Why do I care while I sit in Denmark, a country that has prohibited book banning since the 1800’s (yes, really!)?

Because what is banned in the US, doesn’t get translated to other countries at the same rate.
Those authors don’t get invited to conferences, to schools, to gatherings at the same rate.

Their sales are hurt by the book bans, it is not a badge of honor, which then hurts further publications.

When they write from their own experience, book bans and challenges once again show them that the story they carry is not one that is palatable to share with the world. That they should be ashamed to share who they are.

Because what is gatekept, simply not purchased, not shared, not published, or not even written out of fear of how it will be challenged and banned, directly impacts kids’ reading experiences globally.

The US publishing industry is the biggest in the world.

That means that once again the US sets the tone for the reading lives of so many others. Even those who will never set foot in the USA.

That means when a school board removes books, it limits sales, and that directly impacts the books I can access here in Denmark, a country far way from the hallways of American schools.

But it’s not just that.

It’s personal.

It is my own kid’s identity that is constantly put under the microscope as being “too mature,” as “indecent,” as being sexually inappropriate. It is my own kid’s identity mirrored in stories that are being banned outright or shadowbanned in the spaces of our schools and libraries. As if they control who they love or who they are. As if their very existence is one that is too mature for other children.

All because some adults decided that the bankrupt moral code they follow is more important than honoring the identity of my child. Than protecting my child. Than creating a society that respects the lives of the very children we produce.

And it angers me.

And it scares me.

Because when we remove the stories of others, we leave a void of misunderstanding. Of fear. Of thinking that there is somehow something morally wrong with simply existing in the LGBTQ+ community.

Of others telling my kid that they are probably just confused. Of telling our kid that they certainly can’t know these things because they are too young. Of failing to understand something that is simply who they are. Of others asking my kid when they will grow out of it. Of others asking my kid questions that no kid, or adult, should be asked. And thinking it is okay. And telling us to lighten up. And failing to see how every question is another cut, another punch, another closed door.

And I am so sick of “well-meaning” adults thinking that they somehow know better than we do as the parent of our own child. They don’t see how the words they so carelessly spew, the actions they support, and the hate they spread directly impacts our child, impacts us as a family.

So yeah, I may be in Denmark but I Am still going to fight with everything I can.

I am going to fight so that kids can see themselves in the stories we share. So adults can feel the value that sharing their stories have.

I fight because the youth of Denmark deserve a chance at being seen globally.

I fight because we cannot say we value kids and then support book bans at the same time.

The fight has not just begun, it has been going on for a long time. But it is ramping up and just like there are groups that are organized just to orchestrate book bans, so must we.

So what do we do? PEN America, whose images are used in this post and whose latest report is well worth a read, has a few ideas. They say to

  • Identify
  • Document
  • Assess Safety
  • Notify and Communicate
  • Block, Mute, Report
  • Bolster Your Cybersecurity
  • Reach Out
  • Take Care of Yourself

Read more here.

But we also take a moment to check in with the kids we have in our care. How are they? How do these book bans and challenges affect them? How do we continue to fight back?

I know it is scary to speak up.

I know it is scary to place a book in our classrooms that may potentially cause a challenge.

But think of the kids you validate. The kids who need you to show them that you have their back.

That their story matters because they matter,

I think of how our actions now will reverberate for years to come. Of the kids who will search for questions on our shelves and come up empty-handed versus the kids who will find themselves and find peace.

Of those who will find love on our shelves. Of those who will find power.

I fight back for those kids, and for those who don’t even know which questions to ask yet.

I fight for my own kid, how can I not?

Who do you fight for?

PS: Are you looking for coaching or virtual presentations? I am available and would love to support your work. Whereas I am physically located in Denmark now, I can travel if needed. In fact, I will be in the US and Canada in February 20223.  If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help. For a lot more posts, resources, live and recorded professional development, please join my Patreon community where most of my sharing takes place these days.

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