- September 26, 2013
Post submitted by Mitchell Scuzzarella, HRC Digital Media Intern
Monday marked the beginning of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week and reminds us that censorship in American classrooms and libraries consistently targets books about LGBT people and families.
Used to bring attention to the censorship of educational material, Banned Book Week celebrates the freedom to read and draws attention to the issue of censorship. Each year, the ALA releases a list of the books that are most frequently banned across the United States.
While books like 50 Shades of Grey and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why top the list for being sexually explicit, others like the penguin-themed children’s book And Tango Makes Three are there for references to the LGBT community.
Educating youth about LGBT families and people creates safer schools in the United States and could help put an end to the discrimination faced by the LGBT community. Through its Welcoming Schools program, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation works to give educators, parents and administrators in school districts across the country the necessary tools to create learning environments in which all students are welcomed and respected.
Kim Westheimer, director of Welcoming Schools, notes how banning books hinders our progress toward equality.
“Banning a book like And Tango Makes Three shows the lengths that some will go to suppress hints of acceptance of LGBT-headed families,” said Westheimer. “The true story of two male penguins who co-parent a baby together is of harm to no one; it’s enjoyed by children from all kinds of families, and is particularly appreciated by children with same-sex parents.”
Welcoming Schools provides a list of books to engage students on LGBT topics, from chapter books with LGBT characters to elementary age books inclusive of diverse families.
Other children’s books that face frequent censorship for their references to the LGBT community includes Patricia’s Polacco’s In Our Mother’s House and Todd Parr’s The Family Book. In the case of Parr’s book, the single page that led to it being pulled from school shelves read, “some families have two moms and two dads.”
For Westheimer and others intent on increasing diverse education, the fight to keep books like Polacco’s and Parr’s on the shelves is one worth fighting. “We must remain vigilant to make sure that public institutions include representation of the diversity that is central to our country,” she says.