January 15, 2022

Cicely Lewis: Banning books helps politicians but hurts students

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Cicely Lewis is a librarian in Georgia. In a guest post for Maureen Downey’s column, she explains why book bans are only good for one group of people.

When I read the recent headline in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution entitled “Movement would ban LGBTQ books, online materials from school libraries,” I felt like I was in an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” I felt like I had been blasted to the past.

But, no, it is not the 1950s or 1960s. It is 2022, and our “leaders” are trying to ban books. Where is the uproar from those people who were so alarmed when they thought Dr. Seuss’ books were being banned? In reality, they only stopped the reprinting of six of his books, a decision made by the publishing company.

Where is the disdain for cancel culture now when LGBTQ books are now being targeted? Georgia students like James Liming, featured in the AJC story, are making connections in books and finding the windows and mirrors that Rudine Sims Bishop, an early champion of multicultural children’s literature, talks about in her essay “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.”

Bishop, professor emerita at Ohio State University, in that famous essay describes books that reflect the reader’s experience as “mirrors” and books that provide a view into someone else’s experience as “windows.” “Sliding doors” offer the reader a chance to enter another world and become a part of the story. These books are saving lives. Librarians are saving lives and now this is all being threatened by people who are trying to guarantee their reelection.

These same people don’t want us to teach Black history in school. They are using words like “critical race theory,” “woke,” and “banning books” to incite their base. As a school librarian, I always ask my students, “Did you read the book?” I have to ask these people the same thing. Have you read the books?

Read the full column here.

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