SOUTH JERSEY (KYW Newsradio) — At what age should students have access to certain books? That question has become a convoluted debate across the country, stirring unyielding culture wars.
While some groups are leading the so-called “book bans,” others are working to bar the bans that have been erected.
Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey are pushing for a bill that would prevent book bans at town and school libraries. Any public library that bans books for political reasons would lose some or all of its state funding.
State Sen. Andrew Zwicker from Middlesex County, one of the bill’s sponsors, said as a father, he understands parental rights.
“This is about freedom. I’m fighting for freedom for all families. I understand that this makes people uncomfortable, and I think these are important conversations to be had,” he said. “What I don’t think is the right way to go is to just remove these books and stop the conversation outright.”
Across the country, the books that receive the most opposition — mostly from conservatives — are titles that include graphic sexual content, like the memoir “Gender Queer.” Zwicker defends such books, noting they are approved by groups like the American Library Association.
“You cannot remove these books from the library if they’ve been deemed appropriate, and I’m relying on experts in child development and librarians to decide what is age-appropriate,” he said.
Zwicker suggested parents who don’t want their kids to read certain books can talk to them about it, rather than try to prevent everybody from reading them.
Republican state Sen. Steve Oroho from Sussex County sees it differently.
“Parents have a legitimate interest in the materials their children may be exposed to in school libraries, especially when some of the books that have raised concerns recently contain graphic depictions and descriptions of explicit sexual acts. Perhaps the problem isn’t that parents are expressing their concerns, it’s that books with pornographic content are ending up in school libraries in the first place,” he said.
The bill was recently introduced, and there’s no date set for committee hearings.