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Curriculum Center & Curriculum Collections: Censorship & Book Bans

Due to the coronavirus upset, many publishers and educational organizations have exceptional online content for children, teachers, parents, and anyone interested in children's books

Why are books banned?

The Fiery History of Banning Books

This video was produced by Storied a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) YouTube channel. Storied is the PBS home for arts and humanities shows from PBS Digital Studios. It explores art, culture, mythology and much more.

What is a banned book?


Challenged Books Banned Books
A group or person wants a book removed from a library or school. A challenged book has been brought before a board or a group of people acting with authority, who agreed with the challenge and make the decision to remove it from a library or school. 

An individual or a group of people may not agree with the content of the book based on political, religious, or other reasons. They strongly believe that the book should be removed and not accessible to others as a way to protect them, often children, from difficult, controversial, or offensive ideas or information.

There are groups of concerned citizens, librarians, school teachers, parents, etc. who fight challenges and attempts to ban books. Most challenges are not successful and the book is usually put back in the curriculum or the library. Decisions are always made on a local level. There is not one central authority that deals with banned books. 

The Office for Intellectual Freedom is housed under the American Library Association (ALA) and receives reports of challenges and decisions to ban books throughout the world. These reports are compiled and communicated publicly in order for the public to know about censorship attempts in schools and libraries.

The ALA condemns censorship. For more information about challenging and banning books, see the pages of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom. 

“Books and ideas are the most effective weapons against intolerance and ignorance.” —Lyndon Baines Johnson, February 11, 1964

Other Online Resources

National Council of the Teaching of English (NCTE) offers a webpage on Intellectual Freedom Center: "NCTE recognizes that the freedom to read and other components of intellectual freedom are vital to literacy and our mission. Through the Intellectual Freedom Center, NCTE has for many decades offered guidance, tools, and other support to teachers faced with challenges in classrooms and schools pertaining to texts (e.g., literary works, films and videos, drama productions), student writing, and/or to teaching methods." This site also has other resources and research reports for teachers of English.

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) promotes the freedom of thought, inquiry and expression. NCAC envisions "an American society that understands, values, defends, and vigorously exercises free expression in a just, egalitarian, diverse, and inclusive democracy". The website offers resources and the latest news for teachers, parents, students, artists, school librarians, administrators, activists, etc. 

Banned Books Week is a sub-site from the American Library Association's stand on censorship and book bans. This site includes news and events that can help teachers and school librarians prepare for the annual Banned Books Week celebration in September, including resources for teachers. 

Murphy Library Resources

PEN America

PEN America is an advocacy organization that has been promoting Freedom of Expression in the United States over for 100 years. You can find news, reports, resources and statistics about major issues such as book banning, educational censorship, campus free speech, mis and disinformation, online abuse, resources for writers, global advocacy, and more, such as this latest report on the movement towards banning books in the United States. 

Below is a short video from the PEN Children's Book Committee's beliefs statements

  • The freedom of expression
  • The freedom of choice
  • Education
  • Inspiring children
  • Excellent high quality literature
  • Literary fellowship
  • Open dialogue
  • The freedom to read

National Educator's Association (NEA)

The National Education Association (NEA), the professional organization for all American public school teachers, has a few articles on its website about censorship and attempts to ban books.

Here is an article on its website from the perspective of a public school teacher on the freedom to read and learn. 

Using the search box on its website, search for "censorship" and see the results here to get a sense of what the profession of public school teaching has to say. 

How do banned books affect teachers?

On Protecting Children

The American Library Association’s Bill of Rights policy is clear on its position on the access of information:

“Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents—and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to resources.”

This means that a concerned parent can intervene on the behalf of his or her own child, and teachers and school librarians can accommodate their concern by offering options.

On the other hand, do these same concerned parents have the right to ban a book from every child in the entire class or school? 

When teachers and school librarians in Wisconsin are confronted with a challenged book, they can turn to the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC), a research library that deals with children's literature on the UW Madison campus. The CCBC can provide background information (professional reviews, awards, etc) on the challenged book. All services are free. 


Challenged and Banned Books by Genre and Year

Banned and Challenged Picture Books (Edmonton Public Library Canada): a far-reaching list of typically challenged and banned picture books plus the reason.

The Greatest Hits: Most Challenged or Banned Books 2001-2019 (from the American Library Association)

By Genre: Compiled by the American Library Association

Children's Books 

Teen/Young Adults Books (books written for YA audiences, featuring a YA main character, and classics that regularly appear on high school required reading lists)

Classics (many classics appear in high school curriculum)

Diversity Content (usually characters identifying as people of color, LGBTQ+ community, or people with disabilities)