Letter to the Editor: Local perspective on book banning


I was born and raised in Wilkes “by God” County and reading that we held the highest percentage of banned books in N.C. at 38% was disheartening, but, unfortunately, not surprising.

There’s been a growing trend of book-banning and censorship across the state and some of us were concerned that Wilkes would fall victim to it. It appears that our worries were realized.

If I’m not mistaken, the author of the article was referring to PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans. It is important to note that the list only covers July 2021-June 2022, but the books mentioned in the index were part of a larger list students would read to prepare for Battle of the Books, a book related competition.

Our county no longer participates in Battle of the Books.

Prior to the superintendent deciding to withdraw us from this competition, the list students would have to read from was revised. Two books were dropped. They were “To Night Owl From Dogfish” and “The Shape of Thunder.” A couple of days after this was decided, a school board member via email thanked an employee who is connected to the program for “the work [they] are doing to ensure that the children are not reading things that espouse sin that is prevalent in our culture.”

But, it did not stop there.

We no longer have “Looking for Alaska” by John Green in our media centers.

It took only about 31 words from one parent to cause a committee at one of our middle schools to recommend its removal. Because our school board granted the power of immediate removal to our superintendent, our superintendent removed the book from the school. He also removed “Looking for Alaska” from all the media centers that carried it.

When community members, former and current students, and media specialists asked for the reinstatement of the BOB program and “Looking for Alaska,” the superintendent stood firm in his decision. The school board backed him up.

Interestingly, prior to the school board meeting in January, Franklin Graham, the president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, emailed his employees in Wilkes and asked that they participate in a school board meeting to support “Looking for Alaska”’s removal.

But, why would any of this matter?

It matters because the freedom to read is in jeopardy. I do not believe these challenges will cease. If we do not challenge the challenges, more books will be removed. More book-related programs will be replaced.