Banning Books is Counterproductive to Addressing Literacy Issues in Texas

Christine McNabb, Texas parent and advocate, discusses how emphasis on book bans and censorship negatively impacts students' learning opportunities and needs.

In recent years, Texas has been involved in many debates over banning books in educational institutions and public libraries. Advocates argue that such actions are vital for shielding young minds from objectionable content, while critics say that book banning undermines intellectual freedom and overlooks the root problem of literacy. Texas faces a significant literacy challenge, often called an "illiteracy" problem. However, banning books is not the remedy for this issue. Instead, there are more effective strategies for enhancing literacy rates among Texas residents.

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Banning Books Hinders Students' Intellectual Growth.

Advocates of book banning often argue that removing certain books from circulation shields children from exposure to controversial or inappropriate material. However, this approach operates under the false assumption that shielding children from challenging or uncomfortable topics somehow protects them. In reality, it deprives them of the opportunity to engage with diverse perspectives, wrestle with complex issues, and develop critical thinking skills. Rather than sheltering young readers, book banning limits their exposure to the rich tapestry of human experiences, hindering their intellectual growth.

Systemic Challenges Must Be Addressed to Improve Literacy Rates.

At its core, the literacy problem in Texas stems from socioeconomic factors, inadequate funding for education, and disparities in access to resources. Banning books does nothing to address these underlying issues; instead, it distracts from the systemic challenges that must be addressed to improve literacy rates. As a fact, in Houston, the largest city in Texas, one out of every three residents struggle with illiteracy, and shockingly, only 73 percent of third graders are reading at grade level.

Censorship Breeds Ignorance and Intolerance.

Rather than investing time and energy in censorship efforts, policymakers should focus on implementing evidence-based literacy programs, expanding access to high-quality books and educational materials, and addressing the root causes of educational inequality. By resorting to book banning as a solution to literacy issues, Texas risks perpetuating a culture of censorship that stifles intellectual curiosity and academic freedom. When specific ideas or perspectives are deemed too controversial or objectionable for public consumption, it sends a chilling message to educators, students, and authors alike. Creativity is stifled, critical inquiry is discouraged, and the free exchange of ideas is reduced. Rather than fostering an environment conducive to learning and exploration, censorship breeds ignorance and intolerance.

Eliminating Librarians Poses Risks to Students' Academic Outcomes.

Recently, during the 2023-2024 school year, school libraries have endured the backlash of banning books. School districts such as HISD (Houston Independent School District) and SBISD (Spring Branch Independent School District) have witnessed a concerning trend of librarian terminations. The termination of school librarians deprives students of valuable resources and undermines the quality of education they receive. Research has consistently shown that school libraries staffed by qualified librarians are associated with higher academic achievement, improved literacy rates, and enhanced critical thinking skills among students. By cutting funding for school libraries and eliminating librarian positions, districts are jeopardizing their students' academic success and future prospects.

Literacy for All!

Texas should prioritize initiatives that promote inclusive education and literacy for all. This includes diversifying the curriculum to reflect the experiences of marginalized communities, providing educators with the resources and support they need to cultivate a love of reading in their students, and fostering partnerships between schools, libraries, and community organizations to expand access to books and educational opportunities. By embracing diversity, encouraging intellectual freedom, and investing in comprehensive literacy initiatives, Texas can work towards addressing its literacy problem in a meaningful and sustainable way.

Book banning may offer a reprieve for those who seek to shield children from challenging ideas or uncomfortable truths. Still, it fails to address the underlying issue of literacy in Texas. Policymakers risk exacerbating educational inequalities and stifling intellectual inquiry by focusing on censorship rather than systemic reform. Instead, Texas must prioritize inclusive education, invest in evidence-based literacy programs, and foster a culture that celebrates diversity and intellectual freedom. Only then can the state make strides toward improving literacy rates and empowering its residents to become critical thinkers and lifelong learners.

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About Christine McNabb

Christine McNabb, Texas resident, is a devoted mother of four and caregiver to five children, whose ongoing advocacy focuses on maternal mental health, literacy, and the fundamental right to read. With unwavering dedication, she works to narrow literacy gaps within her community, serving as a dedicated full-time substitute teacher and tutor. Previously, Christine empowered mothers through her platform "This Mama Wines - Let’s Pop the Cork On Motherhood," shedding light on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). She traveled across the nation, amplifying the voices of mothers grappling with PMADs, and played a pivotal role in advocating for the FDA approval of the first postpartum drug. Christine is deeply committed to ensuring equal access to education, literacy resources, and healthcare for all individuals.

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