Believe it or not, geeky books are often the first to be banned, whether it’s Harry Potter, Fahrenheit 451, Hunger Games or the wide variety of comics that make the list. In fact, io9 has a list of 12 weird reasons for banning Science Fiction and Fantasy books.

Jonathan Hill’s quip on Captain Underpants may sound lighthearted, but the truth is that banning any kind of books is a misguided type of censorship.

Jonathan Hill, artist on the graphic novel Americus (a story about a kid whose favorite fantasy series has been banned), was a panelist on the “Ban This!” panel at Rose City Comic Con this past weekend. Joining him were Sarah Mirk, online editor for Bitch Magazine and Justin Stanley, president of The Uprise Books Project.

Hearing from experts was an exciting way to kick off Banned Books Week.

Uprise Books project logo
The Uprise Books Project is dedicated to providing banned and challenged books to underprivileged teens.

People who ban books “hear about a scene in a book & don’t take the time to understand the context,” said one panelist. Often, these concerned individuals haven’t even read the book before making a judgement call on the content.

The biggest perpetrators of banning books are often parents. Although Justin Stanley runs a nonprofit that encourages underprivileged teens to read with banned and challenged books, he is also a parent.

Harry Potter and the Copletely Normal Childhood that was in No Way Magical.
Even children’s books would be a lot less interesting without content that could lead to banning. (from a collection of Banned Books with G-Rated Covers)

“Kids are pretty good at self-censoring,” Stanley says, who has a young daughter. If a kid picks up something that doesn’t interest them or confuses them, they’ll often just skip it (even in the middle of a story).

If they do come across questionable content, it comes down to “having a strong relationship with a child and being able to discuss what they read or heard,” he said.

In that way, it’s no different to everything else children are exposed to, from advertising to peer conversations.

“Why wouldn’t you want to expose your child to other ideas?” asked Sarah Mirk, who believes reading things from a different viewpoint is healthy and important. “It’s a lot harder to hate someone when you can stand in their shoes.”

Mirk also points out the long-discussed issue of the kind of content considered questionable.

Mirk points out that in the days of the Comic Code, violence and sexuality were treated as equally questionable. In today’s culture, scenes of violence are tolerated much more while sexuality is rated harsher. This is definitely apparent in today’s movies.

But whether it is comic books, graphic novels, stories for children or adult books, without questionable content, books would be a lot more boring.

Ray Bradbury's seminal work of science fiction, ironically about the banning (and burning) of books, is often on the lists of banned books. The G-rated version of Fahrenheit 451 on the right is a bit bland.
Ray Bradbury’s seminal work of science fiction, ironically about censorship and book burning, is often on the lists of banned books. The G-rated version of Fahrenheit 451 on the right is a bit bland.