CHildren’s authors and actors say stories about diversity, sexuality, and even contemporary world events are becoming increasingly inappropriate for young readers as a result of increasing censorship, institutional cowardice, and online responses.
“It looks like we’re living through a second Division 28, but one that the UK government has outsourced to an anonymous Twitter lobby,” said one actor.
Last month, when acclaimed gay writer Simon James Green was banned from visiting schools in the south of England by the Catholic Church, it drew attention to what many believe is a developing trend that reflects growing censorship of children’s lessons in the United States, as articulated by Art. Spiegelman recently described it as “a culture war that is completely out of control.”
Sabita Kalhan was recently hoping to hold a school rally with a group of teenagers for World Book Day. She plans to touch on issues of respect and consent in her young adult novel That Asian Kid – about institutional racism in school – and The Girl in the Broken Mirror – which includes a sexual harassment. But the ceremony was canceled because the deputy chief considered his work “inappropriate.”
“Since then, many school librarians have sent me messages that they believe the situation is getting worse and worse, including reactions from school management and parents against certain issues,” Calhan said. “There is a fear of something that may or may not happen, and it is unnecessarily affecting children’s reading preferences.”
“Young adult books, covering diversity, sexuality, and even events in the contemporary world, are now considered unsuitable for teen readers,” he added. “It’s completely out of touch with what teens are actually reading and watching, and the skills of librarians are completely ignored.”
Juno Dawson – author and former teacher whose admired sexual handbook for young people, the subject of the book’s application for gay, U.S. removal – agrees that there is a “change of mood.”
It’s part of a larger culture war, he suggests, is now gaining traction in the UK. “You can’t stop a child from having trans or LGBT, but you can stop a book. Many of these efforts to pull out or cancel the book are frustrating, a great achievement for librarians and teachers who are dealing with angry parents and preachers. “
Eli McNicol joined Simon James Green on the Bristol Teen Book Awards platform the week after his ban, which he described as “sending a painful message to young gay students”.
“I saw the absolute power for good when Simon visited a school, and I am sorry that some children will be deprived of that joy.”
McNeil’s latest book, Like a Charm, includes a dyslexic protagonist; Her debut is shown to a heroine who is as autistic as McNeil herself.
“Different writers take much more than questions about plots and stories,” he argues. “We are often expected to solve social problems or protect ourselves outside of our work.”
Hazel Ploman, head of creative education at the Bath Children’s Literature Festival, says there has been a “definite change” toward more inclusive stories in children’s and youth books since she began working there a decade ago.
“We’re programming our Autumn Festival, and while still working, we’re creating all sorts of voices now as commercial books, not as pigeons in ‘issue books’ for example. There are LGBTQ + books for all ages, picture books with two mothers, British-Indian detectives and neurodivers writers and characters. ”
Jody Lancet-Grant Ploman is one of the authors on the list. Her first picture book for 3-7 year olds, The Pirate Moms – a shocking adventure with a boy named Billy, who has two mothers – attracted some trolling earlier this year. “Anyone who thinks this story is not suitable for the beliefs of child beggars. It’s just a different family situation, but it’s incredibly important that children present it.
“As we live in a more polarized world, there is a worrying trend of censorship of LGBTQ + authors and books,” he said. Local authorities and only abolished in 2003 – still have an impact. “Many adults have grown up reading these subjects because of Section 28 and are now assuming they are not acceptable because they have accepted that absence as a child.”
Drag performers have sparked particular controversy, with several schools being caught in recent years after booking an act seen as a non-child-friendly name or online presence. Sub Samuel AKA Ida HD, author of Children and Founder of Drag Queen Story Hour UK, is clear that “not all Drugs Act is suitable for education”, but believes that schools and local councils are becoming increasingly aware of the potential for retaliation, and consequently risk. Moving away from something that can be thought of.
Adam Carver, whose drag performance is palliative for children! Complaints were made to local authorities and the Arts Council of England last year, bluntly: “It looks like we are living through a second Article 28, but one that the UK government has outsourced to an anonymous Twitter lobby.”
Carver’s company, Fat Projects, is working on a model to support arts organizations facing similar attacks, advising on how to best respond to criticism.
“The idea has resurfaced that weird people shouldn’t be around children,” he said. “Now there is a perfect storm where space and companies are so afraid to respond that they take no risks. But there is still a demand for work from children and families who explore the difference. “