Book Banning on the Rise

Thursday, August 04, 2022


These are some of the words being used to enact book bans across the United States. If you don’t have children in school or if you don’t write for children, you may not know that banning is on the rise. During the 2021-2022 school year, 1,586 books were banned in schools throughout the United States.

Pop over to the American Library Association to peruse their lists of banned books. Prominent titles include “Melissa” by Alex Gino, “All American Boys” by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson, and “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. Books that challenge racism, xenophobia, sexism, and transphobia are the most challenged.

Perhaps we need to get something straight. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t keep an eye on what your child is reading. Neither are any of the organizations working against these bans. Knowing what your child reads is called parenting and is something I advocate. After all, the hope is that you know your child well enough to know if they aren’t ready for a particular book. 

I recently heard Carolyn Foote and Becky Calzada, two Texas school librarians, speak about banning. They are the pair behind the group #Freadom Fighters. They pointed out that some parents don’t realize that going to the school board and demanding a book be pulled from the shelves doesn’t have to be the first step. Parents can talk to the school librarian. The librarian can use the library computer system to note that you don’t want your child to check out X book. Librarians will also direct young readers to age and developmentally appropriate material on a topic should they try to check out something that is too advanced. Additionally, a book that is too advanced for too many students in a school may be moved to another school where it will better serve the student population. 

Unfortunately, the people banning books today frequently don’t have students in the school district they approach. They are working from widely circulated book lists because book banning has become highly political. Banning skews what voices and ideas are heard in the classroom. 

Don’t assume that banning only happens someplace else. Last January one of my local school boards voted to ban several books. Among the books impacted was Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. It wasn’t currently part of the curriculum for a certain class, but it was in the district’s high school libraries. The board announced that it and other books would be removed. 

A lot of people shrug off banning at the high school level. These are high schoolers. They have jobs. These people believe that high schooler can simply go buy the book. In my own district, 60% of the students qualify for free meals. If you can’t feed yourself, how likely are you to buy a book? 

The ACLU represented two of the students in a class action suit because removal of books threatens students' ability “to learn and engage with a diversity of ideas and information, including seeing their own experiences reflected in the books and developing greater understanding of the experiences of others.” 

What can you do as a writer to help prevent bans? One thing is to be aware. If you hear about a ban or a challenge in your community, report it to the ALA. Many challenges are unreported. Read banned books yourself. Post about banning on social media. And encourage the libraries in your area to keep these books on their shelves. Support your libraries and your librarians because they are the ones who help our writing reach readers of all ages. 


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 30 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on August 7, 2022).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins August 7, 2022) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins August 7, 2022). 


Angela Mackintosh said...

Great informative post, Sue! LOVE your t-shirt. :) I heard book banning is on the rise, but haven't checked out the titles. I can't believe books like The Hate U Give and The Handmaid's Tale are on the list. You provided some great solutions. Thanks for the info about FReadom Fighters. They're doing great work!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Hi Ang,
Powerful books make it onto these lists but so do informational books that provide wide ranging information on a topic. It is maddening.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--I too love the t-shirt. I am going to have to skim the 'net to find one for myself.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson? I just read that one this year, on recommendation of a student. (She actually gave me HER copy, all marked-up and underlined and notes written in the margin.) I am trying to recall WHAT could be deemed ban-worthy. I cannot.

We might as well form piles, light a match and burn 'em.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Hi Sioux,
Check out KeenBeeStudio on Etsy for the t-shirt. So many different shirts for teachers at her shop.

SPEAK is about a sex crime so it is about sex so . . . ban it.

Never mind that it is an amazing book about a young woman's strength in coming through something. I hate to think what books banners would approve of.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Excellent points from both sides, Sue, and I'll admit that since I'm no longer in the schools (or have school age children), I'm not as informed. But that doesn't mean it's no longer important. Book banning has repercussions-- so thoughtful and informed discourse is STILL important. Thank you for yours!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Hi Cathy,
It is so much easier to stay informed when your kids are in the schools. Fortunately, I hate writer friends with younger children. Also librarian friends. Thank you for your kind words!

Renee Roberson said...

It really is so interesting when you see the tables in the bookstores now that feature "banned" books and "why" they are banned. It just makes the sales go up, in my opinion! We are in a small charter school and have been fortunate to have teachers with a wide array of book suggestions but there was another charter school last year that ended up in the news because a group of parents tried to get the book "Poet X" by Elizabeth Acevedo banned for being "anti-Christian." They actually filed a federal lawsuit, and a judge ruled they didn't provide enough specific evidence to get the book taken out of the school curriculum. That's a case where I feel a parent should talk to the administration about having their child read an alternative book, not trying to get a book taken out of circulation completely.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I haven't read Poet X. I'll be stopping by the library site to request it as soon as I post this comment.

I don't remember where I read about it, but in one case they had a modern book banned but replaced it with an older banned book. I guess that historic daring is less scary then people who challenge contemporary thought and practice?

Marcia Peterson said...

Thank you Sue for this important post. I've been appalled by the news of the banning of books. I hope Renee's comment about banning making the books' sales actually go up is what happens. That's maybe the one positive thing that could come from this.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Thank you so much for your kind words.

I am currently listening to The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (the book Renee mentioned) and all I can say is WOW! Check it out from your library. Yes, the main character questions the church and God but this is such a powerful book and would be a jumping off place for meaningful conversation.

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