Why inappropriate books are vital

Increasingly it is not parents or school boards who are challenging books, but state legislators. Of the current bans, 41% are tied to directives from state officials or elected lawmakers.

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July 21, 2022 - 2:17 PM

The opposite of a book ban — an open shelf rule — helps readers learn to think for themselves. (Christopher Knight/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

The house where I was raised had an open shelf rule. This meant my brother and I were allowed to read anything, no matter how inappropriate or beyond our years. We never had to ask.

I spent hours of my childhood perusing the volumes on my father’s bookcases at will, trial and error. Histories, thrillers, science fiction, books on politics and culture — all of it was available to me.

I keep thinking about this as more and more school districts participate in what is shaping up to look like an open war against reading. According to “Banned in the USA,” a report issued by the writers’ organization PEN America in April, nearly 1,600 individual books were banned in 26 states between July 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022.

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