Opinion: Liberty at the library


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Published: 01-30-2024 6:30 AM

David Paige (Conway), Angela Brennan (Bow/Hopkinton), and Nicholas Germana (Keene) are NH State Representatives.

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. It is imperative that we 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 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 HB 1311, 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 books were challenged by a small group of individuals 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 the well-being and educational needs of our children, 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 to tell them you support the freedom to read and HB 1311.