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July 14, 2023 Judicial Division

JD Director's Column

By Ms. Tori Jo Wible, Chicago, IL

I read - a lot. Journals, newspapers, magazines, trashy novels, history, book club books, you name it. On a weekend afternoon, you can often find me sitting/curled up with a book. When I was a kid, I had a favorite tree, with a huge branch out over the water, and the trunk for my backrest – more often than not, that’s where I was after chores were done. My dad brought back books from business trips, I got books for birthdays and Christmas. No one ever told me what to read or what not to read. I was well-known by the librarian in my elementary school. When my kids were little, we had a library 4 blocks away, with a bakery in between – good behavior got a cookie (and a latte). We were at that library every week for story time and to pick out books. The kids checked out one book so often that when the library retired it, they gave it to us. “Goodnight Opus.” I’m not sure if it’s my love for reading, my contrary nature, or fear for repeating mistakes of the past, but I find the increase in book banning really disturbing.

I was thinking about making this summer a “I’m With the Banned” summer and checking out some banned books from my library. Apparently, however, I’ve already read a lot of them, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, “1984”, “Slaughterhouse Five”, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “The Grapes of Wrath”, “The Catcher in the Rye”, and the list goes on. Many of these books were required reading in my high school AP English class. Who knew Mr. Robinson was such a radical, we all thought he was a stick-in-the-mud. Then as I was moving down the list I found “The Captain Underpants Series”, anyone with boys in elementary school has heard of these books, I was curious to learn why they were banned. Apparently, there is offensive language, and the books encourage disruptive behavior. Oh my!! I shudder to think of the ‘subversive’ things I let my kids read. We read together every night for years, “Wind in the Willows”, “The Hobbit”, “Captain Underpants”, and all 11 zillion Harry Potter books. (All on one banned/challenged book list or another.) Fortunately for us, they didn’t turn into toads, hobbits, or wizards, they just let their imaginations roam.

According to the American Library Association (ALA) book bans are increasing in the number and type of challenges. Rather than a parent talking with a teacher about specific concerns, there are organized campaigns with lists of books. The Index of School Book Bans, compiled by the non-profit PEN America, reported that from July 2021 through June 2022 there were 2532 individual book ban requests of 1648 unique titles. Those bans occurred in 32 states, in 138 school districts representing a combined enrollment of nearly four million students.

When did we become afraid of learning, of new ideas, of different ideas? My goal is to learn as much as possible, go to school board meetings, and read, read, read!  Also, to make sure children have access to books, the Judicial Division will be hosting a book drive at the Annual Meeting in Denver. Bring new or gently used children’s books to the JD Staff Table for distribution in Pediatrician’s Offices.

Ms. Tori Jo Wible

Ms. Tori Jo Wible

Judicial Division Director, Chief Counsel

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