In her Nov. 23 Viewpoint, “Whose Hand is Rocking the Cradle?”, Rita Dunaway encourages people to run for school board to limit access to books with LGBTQ characters and other diverse themes. This would constitute institutionalized censorship, and should be resisted strongly. All students, including and especially LGBTQ young people, need to see themselves and their families in the books they have accessible to them. A safe and inclusive school includes access to literature in which all students are represented.
Rudine Bishop in her pivotal 1990 essay “Windows, Mirrors and Sliding Glass Doors” stated, “Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author.
“When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.”
For too long young readers have only seen a limited variety of characters in books, primarily white and heterosexual. If readers or their families did not fit that demographic, there were no mirrors for them to affirm their existence, and no windows to interact with characters not like them or to explore the world around them. Reading helps young people develop empathy, the ability to understand and be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings and experiences of themselves and others. If we want our kids to read, and to grow up to be thinking, caring adults, they need a wide range of reading materials from which to choose.
Loudoun County is under attack for adding diverse books to its classroom libraries. These books are for free choice reading and are not assigned texts. If a student, or their parents, are uncomfortable with a particular title, they can simply choose another book. Parents can choose their own child’s reading materials, but do not have the right to dictate what is available for other children.
Schools already have a community-based reconsideration process in place. As a librarian, I have been through the process several times and find it to be genuine and thoughtful, with community members and parents and educators who have actually read the materials in their entirety, deciding what is best for the students of that community. Stacking a school board with single-agenda people would be detrimental to that process and the education system as a whole.
The purpose of education should be to open windows and doors for our children. Let us not elect people whose concern is continued promotion of a narrow ideology that keeps children in dark spaces.
Sandra Parks lives in Bridgewater.