Jacqueline Wilson says censorship of children’s books is ‘a huge worry’

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Renowned author Jacqueline Wilson expressed concerns over the increasing censorship of children’s books, deeming the situation “a huge worry.” During an interview promoting her latest novel, “The Best Sleepover in the World,” Wilson discussed the issue of censorship in literature. In the United States, book bans in public schools reportedly increased by 28% in the first half of the 2022-23 academic year, with many of the bans targeting books featuring characters of color or LGBTQ+ themes, according to a report from writers’ organization Pen America. Similarly, a study by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals revealed that a third of librarians in the UK have been asked by the public to censor or remove books.

Wilson emphasized that while the UK is not America, it tends to follow American trends, making the situation increasingly worrisome. “One of the worst things is there’s no reasoned debate. It’s black or it’s white,” she said. Wilson also expressed her concern about how censorship and intolerance can contribute to culture wars, highlighting the cruel and extreme ways in which people are being “cancelled.” She emphasized her belief in the value of free speech and expressed her disapproval of the idea of anyone being silenced.

However, Wilson clarified that she does not object to editing books to remove problematic and outdated language. Earlier this year, revised versions of Roald Dahl’s stories garnered attention for removing references to “old hags” and “fat” characters. Wilson herself wrote a story inspired by Enid Blyton’s “The Magic Faraway Tree,” in which she consciously moved away from the sexist stereotypes depicted in Blyton’s work.

Furthermore, Wilson reflected on one of her previous novels, “Love Lessons,” written in 2005. The book tells the story of a 14-year-old falling in love with an art teacher, with the teacher reciprocating the feelings. However, Wilson admitted that she would not write the book in the same way today, acknowledging the evolving nature of societal norms and understanding.

Wilson’s latest novel, “The Best Sleepover in the World,” is set to be published by Puffin on 17 August. Through her words and work, Wilson emphasizes the importance of open discourse, critical thinking, and the ongoing need to adapt to societal changes while maintaining the freedom of expression in literature.

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