I am a former language arts teacher of a school district that banned 54 books. I believe in the power of storytelling. Storytelling is how we make meaning of the human experience, and the right book at the right time can and does save lives.
But our school districts have decided that there are some stories that aren’t worth telling. See, there are some courageous voices who have decided to tell their stories about sexual consent, coercion, assault. These stories can give young people a sense of power over their own bodies and sexuality. But our state law has labeled these stories “pornographic,” leading to 262 books banned in Utah.
As many as one in nine children will experience sexual abuse. Imagine if a victim read a book that let them know that they are not alone, that made them feel seen and heard. Maybe this book would encourage them to speak up, get help. But we tell them no, your story is pornographic. Your story is shameful.
Meanwhile, our children are only learning about sexuality through actual pornography. I agree, our youth should not be exposed to pornography. Parents have a right to know what their children are reading. Parents have a responsibility to talk to their children about the difficult themes in young adult literature. But a small vocal minority is abusing state policies and crying “pornography” anytime sexuality is mentioned.
Please urge the state Legislature to amend HB374, so that a book must be reviewed in its entirety and considered for its literary merit before it is banned, and please urge our school districts to return 200-plus books back to our youth.
We cannot be afraid of knowledge. We cannot be afraid of stories. The right book at the right time can and does save lives.
Marla McPherson, St. George