Opinion | Banned books should be kept on library shelves

Iowa Republican legislators are pushing for banned books. This is not okay.


Matt Sindt

Photo illustration by Matt Sindt

Naomi Rivera Morales, Opinions Columnist

Books from every perspective are essential, but a bill in the Iowa Legislature is putting these books at risk. Books with LGBTQ+ themes, characters of color, and sexual content are being taken off the shelf. The Iowa House passed Senate File 496, which would ban certain books from K-12 libraries.

Books that depict various experiences and perspectives are a need for growing minds. Ridding our libraries of these books takes away our reflection and understanding of others’ narratives. It is important to hear every story.

Iowa school districts are required to post a full list of every book provided by libraries, granting parents the right to request the removal of any book they believe does not meet the educational standard. This standard involves books that contain only “age-appropriate” content.

According to PEN America, Iowa has banned or challenged, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson, and “Genderqueer: a Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, among others.

Around 1,650 books across the nation are on the ban list for this school year, according to PEN America. Of this, 41 percent of the books contain LGBTQ+ inclusion or themes, 40 percent contain characters of color that are either secondary characters or protagonists, 21 percent contain topics of race and racism, and 22 percent contain a range of sexual content, some of which include abortion, teen pregnancy, and general sexual experiences.

With the emergence of this bill, Republicans have pushed for parental control on what a child is allowed to read within school libraries. Giving the government and parents such control over growing children will only lead to a silencing of stories and a rejection toward representation and inclusivity.

I have always been an avid reader, and I often engage in a wide range of books. Some of these books involve Hispanic representation and LGBTQ+ experiences. Books with these themes, ones I can relate to and see myself in, have been essential to my growth and well-being.

I came to Iowa to fulfill my education in writing and literature. To learn that children are being limited on the topics they can read completely disregards what Iowa City stands for.

Parents should not be given the authority to choose what their children will read in school libraries. These stories are there for a reason, and they are not to be messed with. They are there to give voice to those often silenced, to stories often pushed to the side.

Engagement with these books creates a safe space for inclusion and representation. It also allows others to understand such perspectives and experiences, and ways of life. By taking this away, hatred toward these individuals and communities will only spread.

To keep these stories alive, we must voice our concerns through protests and lobbying, educating the opposing side on how this bill negatively impacts children and their connection with the surrounding community.

We must keep a safe space within reach for these children and keep these books on library shelves.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.