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Book Challenges in School & Public Libraries

This guide has information for two groups of people: those who are working through school/library policies related to challenges, and those who are looking for information about frequently challenged books.

Frequently Challenged Books

What IS a frequently challenged book?

  • A book or other resource is being challenged when a request is made to restrict access to a book, or to remove the book all together. (A concern or opinion about a book that does not attempt to restrict other people's access is not considered a challenge.) A book is only considered banned if it is actually removed.
  • Most schools and libraries have policies and procedures that describe how challenges should be handled. It is usually a process that involves research, review, and multiple opinions. For example, many school districts have challenges decided by committees made up of a specific variety of school and community stakeholders.
  • Books and other library materials are challenged for a wide variety of reasons--there is no clear line that separates "challenged books" or "banned books" from "normal books" in any kind of predictable way. Some books that were once frequently challenged are not currently the site of much controversy; some books show up on "frequently challenged" lists over many decades. Some books are challenged because of misunderstandings--for example, apparently Bill Martin, Jr., of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom fame was removed from a curriculum plan because of a case of mistaken identity:

 

 

If you are planning to become a teacher and you have questions or concerns about materials challenges, please talk to the Youth Services Librarian! I also recommend reading this piece from the "What IF..." Forum run by the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

Lists of Frequently Challenged Books