LeVar Burton, former host of the children’s television series ‘Reading Rainbow’, has urged children to immerse themselves in books that some parents and school officials have tried to ban from shelves across the country instead of avoiding them.
During an appearance on “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah, Burton weighed in on the “culture war” around books that deal with topics that some adults find inappropriate for children, including books on race, gender, sexuality, mental health, history and more.
Some books pulled from school libraries, according to “The Daily Show” segment, include:
- “And Tango Makes Three”, a book about two male penguins raising a chick together
- “Separate Is Never Equal”, on the desegregation of California schools
- ‘The Bluest Eye,’ a novel by Toni Morrison about racism and white beauty standards that includes mentions of sexual abuse
Burton appeared in a skit, “Reading in 2022 with LeVar Burton,” in which he attempted to share books with his audience, but discovered along the way that they were all banned. The segment video shared on YouTube on February 16 has been viewed more than 20,000 times.
It begins by trying to share Caldecott Prize-winning Nikki Giovanni’s book “Rosa” about civil rights icon Rosa Parks, only to be terminated for a “content violation.”
“It turns out that book is banned because reading about segregation is divisive,” Burton said on the show. “Since nearly every book about black people these days is considered divisive, here’s one that doesn’t contain anyone.”
Burton attempts to switch to “And Tango Makes Three”, only to be cut again.
“I was told that this book is also banned because of ‘sex perversion,’ which is weird because there’s no sex at all in the book,” Burton said. “You all adopted the baby.”
Burton tried to switch to Dr. Seuss’ book “Hop on Pop” only to find it was flagged as “disrespectful to parents”. Eventually he gives up and says the kids should go on and read the banned books anyway.
“Read the books they don’t want you to read,” Burton said. “That’s where the good stuff is. Read forbidden books!
Movement to ban books
Burton’s post on the comedy show comes shortly after a Tennessee school district banned the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus,” written by Jewish cartoonist Art Spiegelman and chronicling his father’s experiences in as long as a Holocaust survivor. The ban sparked widespread outcry over concerns of anti-Semitism and historical erasure, and Spiegelman called the decision “myopic” and “absurd,” The Los Angeles Times reported.
The post also follows a recent lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against a Missouri school district, which said the school’s decision to ban eight critically acclaimed books dealing with race, gender and sexuality violated the first amendmentaccording to McClatchy News.
And in North Carolina, a group of Wake County librarians recently told their school board that pressure to draw LGBTQ-centric books shelves would be harmful to students, the News and Observer reported.
“Not only does this harm students whose identities are portrayed authentically and thoughtfully in this literature, but it also harms all students who fail to learn and develop empathy,” said Julie Stivers, librarian at county year, to the board of directors at the February conference. 1 meeting, depending on the point of sale.