I know first hand that adults want to ban books from the hands of their children because every time I share my LGBTQ positive book post I am told the books don’t belong on shelves, that the books aren’t appropriate for young children, and some messages are considerably less polite than either of those statements.
Most book challenges, which is the first step to banning, come from parents. The American Library Association tracks these requests, and most are made to school or community librarians regarding children’s books that parents wish to make unavailable to their and other people’s kids. Of the top ten most challenged books of 2016 the top 5 were all challenged because of LGBTQ content, including two of my favorite books George by Alex Gino and I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings.
Many parents are afraid, afraid of losing control, afraid that something they see as sinful will be accepted by their children, and afraid that the beliefs they hold are no longer as acceptable as they once were. Fear teaches nothing. Censorship is not protecting your children; rather, it’s merely a way to avoid lessons you could be teaching them no matter what your beliefs may be.
I make no effort to hide that I think that these books and many others like them have an important role to play in school libraries and classrooms and I am very aware that others disagree. As educators our job is not to put our spin on it but rather to provide information, to reflect our students’ experiences whether they are ours or not. The world is a diverse place, and our classrooms must reflect that, and removing books simply because we have personal issues with the topic is not acceptable.
All books are tools to teach, to build empathy, and to explore views we didn’t even know we didn’t know about. Banning books limits those opportunities for readers and constricts their learning. It only takes one book to connect with a child to turn them into a reader and what if that one book is the book we rip off the shelves? The number one thing kids say about what makes reading fun is choosing their own books. When reading is fun, kids do it more, when kids do it more they get better at it. Restricting materials not only has the potential to restrict their personal growth but their academic growth as well. I choose to provide a diverse buffet and welcome hard talks about tough materials instead of a limited one.
Here are some wonderful banned books I encourage you to share with your classes.
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Favorite Banned Books
Animalia by Graeme Base
Why was it banned or challenged? It was challenged at a school library in Texas for violence and horror. This surprised me because I have a seriously low threshold for horror and I have never been bothered at all, neither have the approximately 150 kids I have read it to over the years.
Draw Me a Star by Eric Carle
Why was it banned or challenged? Banned because of a nude depiction of a man.
King and King by Linda de Haan
Why was it banned of challenged? Banned and often restricted to adults because of the depiction of gay marriage.
The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein
So why was it banned? The reasons given were gay positive themes. As you will see that is, unfortunately, a recurrent theme on this short list.
George by Alex Gino
This was banned because of sexual content and LGBTQ content.
I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
So why was this banned? Because of LGBTQ content, offensive viewpoints, and sex education.
Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray
Why was it challenged? Challenged but retained for the use of the words fart and repeatedly farting throughout the text.
Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman
Why was it banned or challenged? Banned because of its acceptance of lesbian mothers raising a child.
The Family Book by Todd Parr
Why was this book banned or challenged? This book wasn’t banned ten years ago it was just recently banned from use in an elementary school curriculum about diversity, tolerance, and bullying. It was banned from a curriculum about tolerance. Am I the only one who sees the irony? The issue was with its pages that state that some families have two moms and some have two dads. It makes me sad that some children who do have two moms or two dads won’t get a chance to see their family reflected in this bright, fun and diverse book.
Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
Why was it banned? For encouraging children to disobey authority
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
Why was this book banned or challenged? This picture book was the most frequently challenged and banned book of 2010, 2008, 2007 and 2006. A true story about a family of penguins. Wow.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling.
Why was it challenged and banned? People get really upset about witchcraft and if you google ” Harry Potter Banned” you will get recent articles and blog posts promoting it’s banning. Really.
In the Night Kitchen (Caldecott Collection) by Maurice Sendak
So why was it banned? That whole lack of clothing issue really upset a lot of people. So much so that it’s been in the top 25 banned books for decades.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
So why was it banned or challenged? It was challenged widely because of its inclusion of “witchcraft and supernatural elements.” Guess those are my things because I adore this book and the whole Harry Potter series that has also been banned and challenged for these reasons.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
So why was it banned? When Sylvester goes missing his parents go to the police who are portrayed as pigs. All the characters are animals, and my son didn’t make the connection because he’s never in his life heard anyone refer to police officers as pigs. I thought it was tongue in cheek, but in 1977 it was enough to get banned.
Daddy’s Roommate by Micheal Willhoite
Why was it banned or challenged? It is one of the most banned books because of its gay subject matter.
For even more banned books check out this list I compiled of 21 Diverse Books People Tried To Ban on Scholastic Parents.