Commentary: Access to books and information is basic to a healthy democracy

Utah authors stand against efforts to demonize books about LGBTQ and minorities.

As Utah authors and illustrators of books for young readers, we condemn the efforts to suppress, demonize and ban books from our state’s schools and libraries.

These attempts overwhelmingly target books by and about LGBTQ people and by and about Black people, Indigenous people and people of color. Historically, these groups have been far underrepresented in books. Over the past decade, the children’s book community has made great strides in finally publishing more books that reflect our actual population. This is a positive achievement and one to be celebrated, not banned.

A parent has a right to decide which books their own children may read, but no parent or community member should have that right over everyone’s children. Access to books and information is foundational to a healthy democracy, economic growth, and a more compassionate society.

Reading books is a deeply empathetic exercise. When kids read books about someone different from them, they learn to see others as fully human. Recognizing the humanity in others creates a community of compassion and prevents hatred, cruelty, bullying, and bigotry.

Reading books is also a deeply validating experience. When kids who are minorities in their communities read books about characters like them, they feel validated and seen. They receive the message: You matter.

Attempts to ban books about underrepresented kids sends them the message: You shouldn’t exist, your story doesn’t matter, and we don’t want our kids to empathize with you. This is a dangerous message, and the consequences can be grave.

In Utah, suicide is the leading cause of death for 10-24 year olds, and our hearts break for our vulnerable youth. More than ever, they need us to show them unequivocally: you matter, we love you, and we want you here. All of you.

Our best hope for a positive future is one free from fear and prejudice, where all of us work together, support each other, and create a community of diverse individuals who find common ground. Sharing our stories is one of the best ways to create that common ground.

We stand with our amazing educators, teachers, and librarians and all who seek to better the lives of our kids by teaching them and offering them books to broaden their minds and perspectives and prepare them to live bravely and compassionately in this world.

We ask our Utah school districts, library boards, state and local governments, and all those in power to reject these divisive, hate-mongering attempts to limit whose stories are worth telling. Uphold the values of freedom and equality we are all promised.

Shannon Hale

Ally Condie

Ann Dee Ellis

Yamile Saied Méndez

Lindsey Leavitt

Brandon Sanderson

Dean Hale

RuthAnne Oakey-Frost

Mette Harrison

Tiana Smith

Erin Stewart

Amy Newbold

Bree Despain

Ilima Todd

Charlie Homberg

Shelly Brown

Lehua Parker

Kathryn Purdie

Julie Olson

Star Peterson

Jessica Day George

Nathan Hale

Wendy Toliver

Kate Birch

Heather Clark

Kaela Rivera

Sabine Berlin

Erin Summerill

Bobbie Pyron

Christian McKay Heidicker

Jennifer Adams

Sara Zarr

Sharlee Glenn

Jennifer Jenkins

Kristyn Crow

Jennifer Nielsen

Elaine Vickers

Rosalyn Eves

Valynne E. Maetani

Emily Wing Smith

J. Scott Savage

Brodi Ashton