Research shows that exposing young people to banned books without restricting them has many positive effects

The movement to ban certain books as 'harmful' is rapidly increasing, and according to the American Library Association, the number of books banned or restricted in schools and public libraries is nearly doubling every year. Gay Ivey, a literacy researcher at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, points out that there is no need to worry about young people being harmed by certain types of books, and in fact there are many benefits to young people being exposed to such books.

How teens benefit from being able to read 'disturbing' books that some want to ban

Attempts to ban books have skyrocketed across the United States, nearly doubling from 2020 to 2021 and doubling again from 2021 to 2022 to about 1,200 cases per year. In response to the bans, efforts to counter them have become more active, with Penguin Random House, the world's largest publisher, suing school districts that removed books from school libraries and launching a project to allow public libraries to access banned books.

The number of 'banned books' and 'books prohibited from being handled in libraries' has doubled. Why are they banned? - GIGAZINE

Many of the bans are the result of objections from parents who have issues with the book's content or specific depictions, and Ressa Kananiopua Pelayo-Lozada, president of the American Library Association, said, 'Today, many library staff are threatening their jobs, their personal safety, and in some cases, even facing prosecution for working to provide young people with books that they or their parents want to read.'

So, Ivy, who studies youth literacy, conducted an interview-style survey at the end of 2023 to find out how students who read young adult literature containing depictions that tend to be restricted, such as sex and violence, felt as a result. After that, from the beginning of 2024, we continued to ask questions over time, such as how their way of thinking and relationships with others changed after reading young adult literature.

As a result of her research, Ivie summarized six changes students experienced after reading young adult literature containing graphic content.

1. Become more empathetic
Fiction portrays the actions and feelings of people with different races, genders, cultures, mental states, etc., and acts as a window into the minds of others, enhancing empathy for them. This empathy is strengthened when readers are moved by a story, so exposure to works with somewhat extreme settings and depictions can potentially give rise to new empathy.

2. You'll develop the ability to improve your relationships
Some students who read young adult literature said that they learned for the first time through fiction about the hardships of children living in poor homes and the severity of mental illness. In addition, new discoveries in fiction lead to the desire to share their thoughts about the book, and students who rarely speak to each other can become closer by sharing their thoughts about the book, or communicate with their parents and other family members by sharing the book. Ivie concludes that 'the relationships in the book made teenagers rethink their own relationships.'

3. Become more thoughtful
Decisions made by fictional characters inform important choices for teens. Positive characters serve as role models, while characters who make questionable decisions serve as negative examples. Restricted young adult literature often includes harmful relationships, drugs, gang-related activity, and unwanted sexual activity. Ivie noted that choices around these issues were more relevant to the problems teens face than choices in safe fiction.

4. It makes you feel happy
Books that are banned or removed from libraries are sometimes considered bad for education, or because they make students feel bad when they read them. However, in Ivie's interviews, many students said that reading books made them feel good, even when they chose books with serious or disturbing content.

5. Books can help students with their mental health
Some students who were experiencing depression or deep sadness reported that reading books helped them treat their mental anxieties. Taking a 'mental journey' through a book, in the context of characters who had similar challenges, helped them rethink their own troubles, Ivie said.

6. Become a better reader
A paper published in 2011 by educational researchers at the University of Notre Dame showed that when reading a text that is beyond one's reading ability, the persistence of working on the text depends on motivation such as interest and enjoyment. The books that parents and educators recommend to students to read are often books that are useful to read, but are not books that motivate students. In order to understand the engrossing stories, the students who participated in the study asked their teachers about vocabulary and expressions they did not understand, and began to visit libraries and bookstores repeatedly.

In response to the results of the survey, Abbey said, 'We cannot generalize the positive changes reported by the students we interviewed, but we have experimental studies that have shown similar effects of reading, and we have been able to concretely demonstrate them.' Reading can provide readers with social, emotional, moral, and academic benefits, and for that reason, Abbey argues that access to books that are deemed 'unpleasant' or 'inappropriate' should not be blocked.

in Note, Posted by log1e_dh