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Book Banning on the Rise

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These are some of the words being used to enact book bans across the United States. If you don’t have children in school or if you don’t write for children, you may not know that banning is on the rise. During the 2021-2022 school year, 1,586 books were banned in schools throughout the United States.

Pop over to the American Library Association to peruse their lists of banned books. Prominent titles include “Melissa” by Alex Gino, “All American Boys” by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson, and “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. Books that challenge racism, xenophobia, sexism, and transphobia are the most challenged.

Perhaps we need to get something straight. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t keep an eye on what your child is reading. Neither are any of the organizations working against these bans. Knowing what your child reads is called parenting and is something I advocate. After all, the hope is that you know your child well enough to know if they aren’t ready for a particular book. 

I recently heard Carolyn Foote and Becky Calzada, two Texas school librarians, speak about banning. They are the pair behind the group #Freadom Fighters. They pointed out that some parents don’t realize that going to the school board and demanding a book be pulled from the shelves doesn’t have to be the first step. Parents can talk to the school librarian. The librarian can use the library computer system to note that you don’t want your child to check out X book. Librarians will also direct young readers to age and developmentally appropriate material on a topic should they try to check out something that is too advanced. Additionally, a book that is too advanced for too many students in a school may be moved to another school where it will better serve the student population. 

Unfortunately, the people banning books today frequently don’t have students in the school district they approach. They are working from widely circulated book lists because book banning has become highly political. Banning skews what voices and ideas are heard in the classroom. 

Don’t assume that banning only happens someplace else. Last January one of my local school boards voted to ban several books. Among the books impacted was Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. It wasn’t currently part of the curriculum for a certain class, but it was in the district’s high school libraries. The board announced that it and other books would be removed. 

A lot of people shrug off banning at the high school level. These are high schoolers. They have jobs. These people believe that high schooler can simply go buy the book. In my own district, 60% of the students qualify for free meals. If you can’t feed yourself, how likely are you to buy a book? 

The ACLU represented two of the students in a class action suit because removal of books threatens students' ability “to learn and engage with a diversity of ideas and information, including seeing their own experiences reflected in the books and developing greater understanding of the experiences of others.” 

What can you do as a writer to help prevent bans? One thing is to be aware. If you hear about a ban or a challenge in your community, report it to the ALA. Many challenges are unreported. Read banned books yourself. Post about banning on social media. And encourage the libraries in your area to keep these books on their shelves. Support your libraries and your librarians because they are the ones who help our writing reach readers of all ages. 


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 30 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on August 7, 2022).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins August 7, 2022) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins August 7, 2022). 

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