The words “A Conversation about Book Challenges” on a light green background with the logo for Down Time with Cranston Public Library to the right of it. The logo is a pair of bright green headphones over a light blue stack of books.

A Conversation about Book Challenges

The Cranston Public Library in Cranston, RI hosts a weekly podcast titled Down Time with Cranston Public Library where they talk with librarians, library workers and community members about a variety of topics. On February 15th, 2022 they spoke with Martin Garnar, director of the Amherst College Library, and Marianne Mirando, the Librarian from Westerly High School in Westerly, RI to talk about the recent increase in book challenges across the country. They discussed what it means for a book to be challenged in a school or public library and what you can do to protect intellectual freedom in your community. This post is an excerpt from their conversation.

Intellectual Freedom News

Intellectual Freedom News 5/13/2022

The American Library Association (ALA) and a coalition of more than 25 groups are banding together to empower individuals and communities to fight censorship and protect the freedom to read. Organizations including the American Federation of Teachers and the Authors Guild have joined the association’s Unite Against Book Bans campaign to raise awareness about the recent rise in book challenges in public libraries and schools. #UniteAgainstBookBans

Toby Price

Assistant Principal Fired Over “I Need a New Butt” Readaloud

A Mississippi educator will have to wait to see if he will be rehired after he was fired for reading a children’s book called “I Need a New Butt!” by Dawn McMillan, to a group of second graders. Toby Price is fighting to regain his job as assistant principal at Gary Road Elementary in the Jackson suburb of Byram in Hinds County. The Hinds County School Board’s decision on Price’s employment is expected in about two months.

Intellectual Freedom News

Intellectual Freedom News 5/6/2022

ALA announces Ukraine Library Relief Fund. In cities and towns throughout Ukraine, dozens of libraries have been severely damaged or destroyed. Librarians have kept libraries open for as long as possible and are improvising to bring services to people. Kreminna City Library offered services a couple of hours a week as street fighting raged. And in Kharkiv, a library was organized in the metropolitan transit system where families were taking shelter. Funds raised will help purchase computers, software, and other resources. Donations will also help support immediate repair needs such as glazing windows and repairing roofs damaged by bombing to keep libraries open. ULA will provide small amounts of support for librarians and library workers who are in harm’s way, wounded, or displaced and need of financial assistance. ALA will send donations to ULA once a month.

#2 Most Challenged Book of 2021 Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison

Top 10 Banned Books: Lawn Boy

Jonathan Evison’s Lawn Boy is number two on the 10 Most Challenged Books of 2021 list. The coming of age novel has received top marks from critics and readers, but also some challenges as well in schools and libraries. Evison won an Alex Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association for “books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.

Intellectual Freedom News

Intellectual Freedom News 4/29/2022

Each year the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) distributes grants for organizations to support activities that raise awareness of intellectual freedom and censorship issues during the annual Banned Books Weeks celebration (September 18 – 24, 2022). Staff at all types of libraries, schools, universities, and non-profit community organizations are encouraged to apply. Grants are awarded for $1,000 and applications are accepted now through June 6, 2022.

#6 Most Challenged Book of 2021

Top Ten Banned Book: Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

If number of challenges are a marker of the serious themes of a book, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is worthy of close attention as one of the top ten most challenged books of all time. The novel features a teenager born with disabilities including encephalitis, who has grown up on a reservation in Spokane, Washington. Fourteen-year-old Arnold, or “Junior” is a cartoonist and book worm with a fiercely protective best friend, Rowdy. Soon after they start freshman year, Junior transfers from a school on the “rez” to one in a small white town, 22 miles away. Although his parents support his decision, everyone else on the rez sees him as a traitor. Throughout the book, Junior struggles with questions about community and identity. He is determined to improve himself and overcome poverty despite the challenges of birth and race. Cartoons and dark humor illuminate the serious themes of the book in a way that even the most reluctant readers can connect with and enjoy.