Op-ed: Liberty in the Library

Huntington Beach, California October 17, 2023-Opponents of the book ban issue hold signs during a Huntington Beach city council meeting Tuesday night. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

By Angela Brennan, David Paige, Nicholas Germana

January 29, 2024

Here in the “Live Free or Die” state, we prize our freedoms. But in New Hampshire, as elsewhere in the United States, we are seeing an increase in attempts to ban books and other valuable educational materials from schools. This alarming trend, often accompanied by false, inflammatory rhetoric about “porn in schools,” is used to justify the passage of new laws that limit liberty in the library, including proposed laws here in New Hampshire. These laws, if enacted, would infringe students’ First Amendment rights and could sweep away a broad range of literature and health-related content that does not remotely fit well-established definitions of obscenity.

The book banners’ agenda is clear: more than half of the books targeted for removal under such laws nationally are by or about people of color or LGBTQ+ individuals. We must protect the right of students of every gender, race, and ability to see themselves represented in school. Denying children this basic right denies them equal educational opportunity. 

Banning books denies children the opportunity to find themselves reflected in a book, connect with diverse perspectives, and expand their imagination to discover new possibilities, thus limiting their understanding of the world they’ll inherit. This is crucial for preparing them for the challenges they will face and for fostering empathy for those from whom they differ.

Equally concerning is the targeting of books that address critical issues in teens’ lives, including sexual well-being, teen pregnancy, abortion, and sexual assault. When the government decides it knows better than parents and restricts access to such books, we deny children the opportunity to feel seen, less alone, and to navigate these challenges in their lives. It is not hyperbole to emphatically state: BOOKS SAVE LIVES.

That is why we are introducing HB1311, commonsense, bipartisan legislation that prevents discrimination against marginalized youth while ensuring parents receive due process in raising concerns about materials in schools and protecting local control over schools’ decisions regarding educational materials. 

Multiple hyper-partisan bills submitted this year propose that politicians in Concord know better than educators, locally elected school boards—and ultimately better than you, the parents—about what is appropriate for your children to read. The overwhelming community responses in favor of the freedom to read in places like Dover, Bow, Milford, and Nashua where a small group of individuals challenged books indicate that the vast majority of parents support the opportunity for their students to choose freely in the library.

We have two paths to consider- one empowers politicians to promote censorship and restricts liberty in the library, or one that protects the freedom to read. Let’s choose the one that prioritizes our children’s well-being and educational needs, trusts and values educators and local school boards, and fosters an environment that values inclusion and equal educational opportunity for all. Censorship is not a Granite State value. 

Contact your state representatives and senators, today, to tell them you support the freedom to read and HB1311.

Authors

  • Angela Brennan

    Angela Brennan is a State Representative (Mer09–Bow/Hopkinton) who serves on House Election Law. She is one of the leaders of the grassroots Write In Biden team. Rep. Brennan has been recognized as a 2023 Emerging Leader by the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), completed a 2023 Voting Rights Fellowship with FairFight, and was recently selected as one of 29 lawmakers, out of 1800 legislators nationwide, for the 2024 Strengthening Democracy Fellowship with the bipartisan Future Caucus.

  • David Paige

    Representing Conway in the New Hampshire House.

  • Nicholas Germana

    Nicholas Germana is a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, representing Cheshire 1.

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