NC Parents Fight for Children’s Right to Read

Books and graphic novels are persistently banned in schools and libraries across the country due to complaints from fundamentalist groups and overbearing parents who feel it their responsibility to suppress access to legal speech they find objectionable. A group of parents in Guilford County, North Carolina, are fighting that vocal minority.

Guilford County parent Caroline McAlister showed up at a school board meeting last week to show her disdain for the school system’s banning of books in college-level English courses. Josey Glover of Greensboro, North Carolina’s News & Record writes about McAlister’s motivations:

“I want my daughters to be taught to read critically and to think critically,” Caroline McAlister, a Grimsley High parent, told the Guilford County Board of Education on Thursday. “I want my daughters to have the opportunity to engage with the ugliness of the world in literature before they experience it head-on.”

More than 20 parents, students and community members of the county’s school district, some holding placards with phrases such as “Celebrate the freedom to read” attended the meeting.

Glover describes why the books were challenged and removed from classrooms:

Other people say that some books on the list are too mature or religiously offensive.

One of the books under debate is Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a dystopian novel that depicts the life of a concubine living in a totalitarian Christian society.

Grimsley parent Lisa Reid recently collected more than 2,000 signatures on a petition asking the school board to set higher standards for reading assignments.

But for some people, reading assignments are not an issue.

“Do not let this example of fundamentalism rob the rest of the students in Guilford County of the worthwhile and potentially life-changing literature that they interact with now,” said Garrett Richardson of Greensboro.

School system policy also allows students to opt out of reading assignments and parents to appeal books to the school board.

So far, the board has shown little interest in changing that policy.

Guilford County isn’t the only school system with draconian policies. Recently, the graphic novel SideScrollers was removed from reading lists in a Connecticut high school after a resident — a resident who was not a parent of a student in the school — complained about profanity and sexual references in the book. Along with NCAC, ABFFE, and other free speech advocates, CBLDF wrote a letter in defense of the graphic novel, which you can read here.

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Justin Brown is a journalism graduate of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and is currently enrolled in Point Park University’s journalism graduate program, Pittsburgh, Pa.