Houston Matters

As BIPOC Book Festival nears, Houston library staffer says banning books can send negative message to certain communities

“Part of learning is learning about things that you did not know before. So banning books that would cause negative responses from certain people, I don’t think it’s fair to what education is all about.” 

Banned books are visible at the Central Library, a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system, in New York City on Thursday, July 7, 2022. The books are banned in several public schools and libraries in the U.S., but young people can read digital versions from anywhere through the library. The Brooklyn Public Library offers free membership to anyone in the U.S. aged 13 to 21 who wants to check out and read books digitally in response to the nationwide wave of book censorship and restrictions.
AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey
FILE: Banned books are visible at the Central Library, a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system, in New York City on Thursday, July 7, 2022.

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Texas schools banned more books from their libraries than any other state in 2022, according to analysis from the free speech nonprofit PEN America. The group says many of the most-commonly banned books dealt with subject matters related to LGBTQ issues or had prominent characters of color and in some way discuss race.

So what affect does the removal of books told from the perspective of people of color or dealing with matters of race and racism have on kids in schools? That's the subject of a panel discussion on Saturday in Houston at the second-ever BIPOC Book Festival. LaTrisha Milton is the Youth and Family Services Manager for Houston Library. She joined Houston Matters with Craig Cohen on Tuesday to talk about the festival and the impact on banning books.

The impact of banning books that explore these topics sends a message that could affect how children grow up and “be well-rounded as people.”

“Because this is such a diverse city in Houston, when we say that we don’t want certain types of books that speak to, clearly people who are in our communities, belief systems that are in our communities,” Milton said. “I think it sends a negative message to people who fall into those areas where those books are discussing those topics or just sharing stories that people that can relate to can identify with.”

Milton said the discussion of whether or not to shelter or expose, especially children, to certain books comes up often when discussing banned books. But she said she feels it’s important to learn about new topics, whether a person agrees with it or not.

“Part of learning is learning about things that you did not know before,” she said. “So banning books that would cause negative responses from certain people, I don’t think it’s fair to what education is all about.”

Milton said banned books come and go, and she believes this is just a moment.

“We will continue as public libraries to encourage people to explore all things, we will continue to be diverse in how we explore what we do as far as bringing in authors, bringing in speakers that speak to the communities in which we serve,” she said.

Milton said she hopes that people are enlightened and understand what the banned book situation is.

“I just want people to be open to hearing qualified professionals discuss what this is doing to our children, how educators are impacted, how libraries are impacted,” she said. “And hopefully someone who had a negative idea of what this is all about will then reconsider their stance.”

The event will be Saturday at Asia Society Texas from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.