Book Challenge Resource Center – National Coalition Against Censorship
What is textbook censorship?
Books taught in schools, and available in school libraries, should be chosen by professionals on the basis of the most objective criteria possible, including the educational, pedagogical, literary and artistic values ââof the books. When books are hidden from students, whether they are withdrawn from classroom instruction, removed from library shelves (or put into restricted circulation) or explicitly banned in schools, due to personal or political beliefs person or group, rather than for professional educational reasoning, it’s censorship.
Policies already exist in most districts to allow affected parents to influence what their own children read. However, we have seen these policies ignored and violated many times as books are deleted without proper review based on the personal opinions of particular groups of people. We have also seen increasing reports of threats to the livelihoods and safety of librarians, teachers, school administrators and school board officials who fail to meet the demands of these so-called censors. No individual or group has the right to impose their beliefs on others. School officials, as government actors, have a First Amendment responsibility to ensure that no particular point of view or belief is allowed to dictate what students can learn and read.
This page contains resources to help you advocate for your interests, your children, your books, your schools, in your own communities. Resources will be added and updated as they become available. Read the statement by the NCAC coalition opposing the organized political attack on books in schools.
One of the best ways to fight censorship is to call it out as soon as it happens. You don’t know if it’s censorship? We can help you with that too!
* Note: your report will be kept confidential.
Explore the NCAC’s Comprehensive Resource Library
How to defend the books
1. Do your research
Know the policies
Your school district almost certainly has policies on how books are chosen (aka “material selection”) and what should happen when books are challenged. They are probably posted on your school board’s website, but you can request them from your school as well. First Order of the Day: Read the Politics! Strict book review policies ensure that the process allows all points of view to be heard, while respecting the rights of students. Book challenges are often very controversial and emotional, and regulations should ensure that all parties feel heard and respected, and also ensure that decisions are made on the basis of objective criteria that focus on the needs of the students.
Read the book
The whole book! Read the whole book! Often, censors try to claim that individual pictures, passages or scenes make an entire book inappropriate for students. They rarely read the entire book, which they often proudly admit. But the pictures, the paragraphs, even the chapters, are not the whole story. This is why strong book review policies require that a review committee, made up of teachers, librarians, administrators, parents, and students, read the entire book and assess it against. established criteria. Books are often the safest and most accessible way for young people to engage in new ideas and situations, and can reflect realities in their lives that they are otherwise afraid to discuss. Books should be viewed in their full context, not in terms of language read out of context or single pages printed on posters at school board meetings. You will be much better able to defend a book if you have read it.
Gather expert opinions
Compile reviews from places like School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews and List of books. The National Council of English Teachers offers justifications for teaching particular books to its members. Look for the awards and praise the book has received.
2. Find allies
Quietly: Communicate with people individually within your personal social, academic and / or professional networks. Try to gauge their interest in becoming verbally involved in opposing book bans. Encourage them to read the books in question. Explain to them why you are so attached to keeping these books in schools.
Public: Post in community spaces such as online forums and mailing lists, as well as on your social networks, to express your concern and ask others who agree with you to attend upcoming meetings school board or write letters. Plan to coordinate your posts and share ideas.
3. Don’t let those who oppose books be the only voices heard
Some key advocacy tools:
- Attend school board meetings and register to speak.
- Write letters to school administrators, board members, and local officials. Recording your opinions shows district officials that those who attempt to retire books are not the only ones who have strong opinions on these issues and can help officials make decisions that protect free speech. Sample letters for students and teachers are below and can be adapted for any writer.
- Contact local media and write letters to the editor of local publications. Letters to the editor are more likely to be published if they are short (think less than 200 words) and personal (explaining the impact on you or your community).
- Start or join social media campaigns like #BooksNotBans and #FReadom, as well as local initiatives.
For Parents: Talk to your children about free speech, differing opinions, and why it is important to fight for the right of all students to access books, even if they are not personally interested in reading them.
Remember: Not all books will appeal to all students. Its good! If every book in the library was to serve every student, the shelves would be bare. A library, including a school library, is supposed to include a wide selection of books that provide value to students. Parents who object to their own students reading particular books can use district procedures to enable them to influence what their own child reads without forcing their beliefs on all students.
4. Amplify student voices
Too often in this debate we do not hear from the people most directly affected: the students. What makes it incredibly powerful when we hear students talk about why contested books are important to them, why their free speech rights need to be protected, and how these controversies impact their lives in and outside of school. . Here are some examples of student advocacy that inspired us:
Legal advice and employment protection
The NCAC does not argue. But if you feel that a situation requires legal intervention, there are organizations that can help. If you are a teacher or librarian concerned that your work is at risk, contact your local union first.