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Adults have a lot to say about book bans — but what about kids?

Books seen in an elementary school library in suburban Atlanta on Aug. 18. There have been a growing number of books pulled from school libraries in the past few years.
Harkim Wright Sr.
Books seen in an elementary school library in suburban Atlanta on Aug. 18. There have been a growing number of books pulled from school libraries in the past few years.

There's a lot of discussion and debate about the rise in efforts to remove certain books from school libraries and curriculums. It usually involves adults debating the issue — but it's kids who are affected.

So how do young readers feel about book bans? We asked some.

We spoke with Sawyer, 12, from Arlington, Va., Theo, 9, from St. Louis, Mo., Priya, 14, and Ellie, 14, both from Austin, Texas. To protect their privacy, we're only using their first names.

Here's what they said:

Sawyer: I don't like it. It just feels weird that you're gonna, like, cut it off from them. ... Why are you trying to hide information from your kids? It just doesn't make a lot of sense. ... If you take something away from a kid, it kind of makes them want it more.

Theo: It's pretty much taking away books from people — like even books that people actually might like. If you ban every book, then there's not really going to be any books left to read. So what's the point of it?

Ellie: So many books are banned nowadays. I was looking up lists earlier and it's like hundreds of books... One of my favorite books that I recently found out was banned is Rick by Alex Gino. It's a book about a kid who learns that he's asexual, which is an LGBTQ orientation. ... I was just starting to question when I had read that book, and it really helped me sort of figure out that sort of thing. It was really interesting to me that a book that helped me so much and that I love so much would be like challenged or banned.

Priya: Books provide people with that exposure to different beliefs and different perspectives. And that's what breeds and fosters empathy and compassion for other people ... There was this book it was called The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James. The girl's like 11 or 12. She gets a heart transplant. She's also dealing with the re-emergence of her mother into her life. And she's also exploring her sexuality as she's growing up, so it's kind of like a really sweet coming-of-age story. Then I was aware that some parents didn't want this to be a book that was offered to us. And I just didn't understand why it was harmful ... I really like the book because it was like a girl my age. And I just felt like I really connected with it.

Ellie: In like an elementary school, middle school library, having like an adult book with very adult themes should not be in the library. So in that case, it would be okay.

Priya: Obviously you don't want your 10-year-old reading a really sultry adult romance book because that's not age appropriate.

Sawyer: In [my] elementary school they were removed for gore and violence. I think that makes sense. You don't want to scare a kid. But if it's about information then you shouldn't ban it.

Priya: I would ask [the adults] why they think [a certain book] should be banned. And I would also ask them like ... what harm they see in this [book] ... Because I think ... it's important to understand all these different people's perspectives, just like books do. And I think we could probably come to a good conclusion.

Theo: I'd be pretty mad and a little upset [if a book was taken away], too. Yeah, I'd probably just buy a new one.

Priya: I go out of my way to read these banned books because I want to learn about how voices get silenced in our society ... and why.

This piece was edited for radio and digital by Meghan Sullivan. Isabella Gomez Sarmiento produced the piece for radio.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.

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