Banned Books week is a time to celebrate the Freedom to Read that we express in our school community and library.  Books are challenged for a variety of reasons, often within different school districts in the U.S. and Canada. Patrons, parents, or school administration may challenge a book and attempt to pull it off the shelves of the library or from the curriculum of the school, often because they want to protect the students, or prevent other patrons from reading.

Each day during this week, we will feature a title from each of our three divisions to learn more about the challenges in other schools, districts, and with other readers to highlight the challenge stories that readers across the globe face.  The AAS Library believes in the freedom to read, and the access to information for our all of our patrons.

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The transgender community has been in the news recently for discrimination in the United States, particularly in different school districts.  The trans community faces backlash from several groups and are slowly emerging into public consciousness.  One book, I Am Jazz, is a children’s picture book that illustrates one person’s transition and the acceptance that she sought and found.

Jazz Jennings is a transgender advocate and television personality, and this book highlights her childhood.  She talks candidly about her girl brain and a boy body, and how she was born this way. Despite the messages in the book about acceptance and friendship, this book was listed as the fourth most challenged book in 2016.  

In 2015, one Wisconsin elementary school canceled a reading of this book that was meant to welcome a transitioning student because of a threatening lawsuit.  The community rallied, however, and an event was hosted at the local library featuring the author and a member of the Human Rights Coalition.  More than 600 people showed up in support of this event.

There are many strong opinions about this community and its people.  Should books about transgender people and issues ever be pulled from the shelves?

See more details here about this book and this challenge.

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George, a middle grades novel, has risen to a top-ten banned book given its timely and current content.  The story follows a young fourth grade boy who wants nothing more than to play Charlotte in the school production of Charlotte’s Web.  George also talks about “herself” and how she identifies with the characters in the play.

Transgender issues have been in the news recently, with Caitlyn Jenner and the North Carolina Bathroom laws.  The experience is beginning to be a part of common culture, spreading through the internet, media, and books.  This is an issue with controversy and strong opinions on both sides, which inevitably leads to challenges and attempts to pull the content from public spaces, particularly when the media is aimed towards younger children.

We have all struggled with our identity at some point, perhaps for something that has become less stigmatized over the years.  Should books be pulled from the shelves because they touch current topics and aim to increase understanding in our younger populations?

See a NY Times book review here for this title.

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It is rare that books are banned just from the title or the cover of a book, but it was the case with one of the most challenged books of the year: Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan.  Books that feature LGBT issues, especially so overtly, are often challenged more than books that follow more traditional romances.

The cover has generated challenges, one because of “the school’s PDA policy,” another because of “sexual content,” both denying that the challenges were more about the boys kissing than the kissing itself.  Levithan mentions in interviews that the cover and the title were very intentional, and that the cover was created by a fan photographer and his friends. He notes that this display shows that there is a place for a questioning or quiet LGBT teen in that space.  A library or a bookstore that carries the title offers a small corner of space, even if that teen doesn’t feel comfortable walking around with the book in hand.

Should a controversial book (according to some) hide its content with a different cover?  Or is it better to have the issue out and visible and open?

See a brief note about Two Boys Kissing (with nice links) here.