One of the main talking points you’ll see again and again when it comes to fighting book challenges is that you should be able to back up any purchase you make with your collection development policy. Many collection development policies cite professional review sources as one of the major ways library staff find quality materials to add to their collection. For library staff that work with youth, School Library Journal (SLJ) is a go-to professional review source. That’s why SLJ put together the webinar: From Book Submission to SLJ Star: Insight on the School Library Journal review process to explain what goes into their reviews. For this webinar Shelly Diaz, Reviews Editor for School Library Journal, is joined by Mahnaz Dar, Senior Editor, Professional Reading & Reference for SLJ, Ashley Leffel a middle school librarian and reviewer for SLJ, and Kiera Parrott, former Reviews Director for SLJ and LJ.
In January of this year the Prosper Citizen Group Political Action Committee (Prosper PAC), a conservative political action group operating in Prosper, Texas, asked the Prosper Independent School District (PISD) to remove a list of 82 books from their libraries on the grounds that they were sexually graphic, violent and inappropriate for children. A group of Prosper ISD parents have created a reading group so they can decide for themselves whether these titles should be removed from Prosper schools. One of those parents is Holly Lister Draper who in February posted a review of one of the books from the Prosper PAC’s list, The Pants Project by Cat Clarke, on her Facebook page.
Authors speak out on how book challenges have affected them and how to respond. Their advice is to take back the narrative from challengers to center the conversation on works’ benefits and insist that challengers own up to ulterior motives.
“I think people fail to realize how much hate is really an issue.” Read this interview with Jordan Joubert, student at North Hunterdon High School, New Jersey, who is currently engaged in speaking at board meetings, creating student-run organizations, and serving as a youth advocate in the face of censorship.
Despite efforts to keep a new generation of students from a transformative encounter with Morrison’s work, The Bluest Eye remains relevant and reflective of American society over 50 years after its original publication in 1970. This cultural relevance is the reason why it maintains its place on recommended reading lists for Advanced Placement assessments across the country. It is why the novel still brings me to tears, and still has important things to teach us about reckoning with racialized concepts like beauty and gender, and how ugliness renders one invisible.
Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer is 2021’s most challenged graphic novel. Kobabe wants eir memoir to remain in our libraries. Youth, our readers, want Gender Queer to remain in our libraries. In that spirit, the following resources were curated to assist librarians addressing challenges to Gender Queer.
“Every voice matters, even if you don’t think yours does.” Read this interview with Jude Gepp, sophomore at North Hunterdon High School, New Jersey, who is currently engaged in speaking at board meetings, sending emails to the board for creating more inclusive learning environments, and maintaining their own website to inform the community about the LGBTQ+ equality movement.
Wentzville, MO received multiple book challenges in Fall 2021. These books, including The Bluest Eye, were removed by the School Board. By February 2022, students filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against their school for violating their civil rights through book banning. That very same day, the School Board voted 7-0 to return one of the books to the shelves and the challenger withdrew at least two of their other challenges.
Five diverse titles were recently challenged in North Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional High School District, New Jersey. Read this interview with award-winning school librarian Martha Hickson to learn more about how she engaged in successful advocacy using community resources and students to help insure students’ intellectual freedom rights.
Three books were removed from the Raymond School Library (WI): All American Boys by Jason Reymonds, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Get them back on the shelves by voting this spring in the school board elections.