| | | |

Our 5th Annual INCLUDAS Book Party – Topics of Advocacy and Banned Books!

Welcome to our 5th Annual Book Party – Topics of Advocacy and Banned Books! Today we are going to show the reasons behind and the processes and impact of book bannings, provide advocacy and educational resources to combat this issue, and offer lots of book recommendations that feature disability issues and other “controversial” aspects!

This is not a political post. We are only seeking to educate the public on the process, history, and possible future of book bans with a disability focus. We are presenting the data we collected and seeing how it impacts books and disability inclusion and representation.

What is a book ban?

According to the American Library Association, book banning is when action is taken against a book or materials in a school or library’s collection. This action is taken based on its content by different groups and individuals in order to “protect” others, specifically children, from “difficult” content. Book bans lead to previously accessible books becoming unavailable or heavily restricted. 

Most book bans and challenges are initiated by parents (42%), followed by library staff and educational board members (29%), according to a Gitnux Market Data Report. PEN America reports that between July 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022, there were 1,586 book bans in 86 school districts across 26 states, which has affected over two million students. An estimated 40% of these bans are connected to political pressure and proposed or enacted legislation. 

As proposed by Emily Knox, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, there are four major outcomes of book bans, that Knox refers to as “The four Rs”: redaction, relocation, restriction, and removal.

  • Redaction is when content, text and/or images, is crossed out from the source material.
  • Relocation is when the content is taken out of the intended audience’s reach and moved to another demographic.
  • Restriction results in needing permission to consume certain content.
  • Removal is what it sounds like: completely removing the content from circulation. Removal is typically what people think of when they hear about the term “book ban,” probably because it is the most extreme.
Title text reads, “What’s being censored?” There is a white column on the left of the graphic with three pie charts on the right. The column text reads, “The most commonly banned books in America address topics like race, mental health, LGBTQ issues, disabilities and other diverse topics. Many of these topics are prevalent social and political issues. Book bans are part of the ongoing “Ed Scare” - a campaign that suppresses free expression in public education.” The pie chart on the top represents the 44% “of banned books portrayed violence and abuse,” the middle showing the 38% “of banned books covered health and wellbeing” and the bottom shows the 30% “of banned books discussed death and grieving.”
Title text reads, “The Numbers Behind Book Bans.” Below that header, on a dark blue background, text reads “1500 books banned across 86 school districts in 26 states affecting over 2 million students.” In the middle of the image, the words “Books are often banned for challenging long standing narratives about American history or social norms” are highlighted in yellow. At the bottom of the image, text reads, “42% of book challenges are initiated by parents” and “29% from the library staff and board members.”

What kinds of books are getting banned?

Books are often banned for challenging long-standing narratives about American history or social norms, but many have been deemed problematic for foul language, sexual content, or political content. Most often, children’s books, teen books, and adult titles that address topics like race, mental health, politics, LGBTQ+ issues, gun violence, and/or include sexual content or offensive language, are getting banned. According to Gitnux, out of the books banned since 2019, 41% featured protagonists or characters of color, 22% addressed race and racism, 16% were biographies or history books, and 9% had themes related to rights and activism. 

These efforts to ban content and chill speech are part of the ongoing “Ed Scare,” a national campaign that suppresses free expression in public education. It is important to note that a society in which book banning is seen as acceptable is no longer a free society. 

Here are some of the most unexpected banned books, according to “The Week”:

book covers of unexpected books banned.
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank banned in 1983
  • The Merriam-Webster Dictionary banned in 1969
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry banned in 1993
  • The Lorax by Dr. Seuss banned in 1989
  • Little Red Riding Hood by Jerry Pinkney banned in 1990
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling banned in 2007

Banned Books and Disability

Here are four examples of banned books that feature disabilities:

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

Year Published: 1993

Year Banned: 2021

Reason(s) Banned: Using the “r” word & disability stereotypes

Disability Representation: “…a book about children [two boys] with physical and emotional differences…”

book cover of "freak the mighty."
book cover of "hunchback of notre dame."

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

Year Published: 1831

Year Banned: 1834

Reason(s) Banned: The Church banned it for being “sensual, libidinous or lascivious”

Disability Representation: A book about a “deformed child” who was put to live in the church where he was “happiest,” but ringing the bells made him deaf

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Year Published: 2004

Year Banned: 2008

Reason(s) Banned: “derogatory terms in describing an autistic girl and contains passages with male and female sexual references…”

Disability Representation: Features an autistic character

book cover of "al capone does my shirts."
book cover of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Year Published: 2003

Year Banned: 2010

Reason(s) Banned: For “foul language”

Disability Representation: “…a 15-year-old boy, with Asperger’s Syndrome, who investigates the death of a neighbour’s dog…”

Disability Books that may get banned in the future:

Picture Books:

  • “What Happened to You?” – physical disability
  • “A Day With No Words” – autism
  • “Warrior” – cancer
  • “A Tulip in Winter” – Rheumatoid arthritis
  • “Pedro Loves Saving the Planet” – hearing impairment
  • “The Good Hair Day” – wheelchair user

Middle Grade Books:

  • “Ariana Del Mar Jumps In” – chronic illness
  • “What About Will” – pain and depression
  • “We Could Be Heroes” – autism and epilepsy
  • “The Storyteller” – anxiety
  • “Honestly Elliott” – ADHD
  • “Frankie’s World” – autism

Young Adult Books:

  • “The Art of Insanity” – bipolar disorder
  • “The Immeasurable Depth of You” – ADHD, OCD, SAD, and GAD
  • “The Moth Girl” – chronic illness 
  • “We Are All So Good At Smiling” – depression 
  • “Unseelie” – autism 
  • “Parenthesis” with epilepsy

A few of Social Justice Books’ Recommended Banned Books:

  • “The Hate U Give”

  • “Sulwe”

  • “When Stars Are Scattered”

  • “Black Was the Ink”

  • “Indian No More”

  • “Multiplication is for White People”

What can readers do?

Support the “Right to Read”

  • Know your rights
  • Know resources to help
  • Stay informed
    • Get organized
    • Get involved with your local school board
    • Stay updated on what’s happening 
  • Report censorship (See our “Resources and Organizations Fighting Book Bans” section below)
  • Speak out
  • Don’t self censor

Stop Censorship

  • Be informed 
  • Build your case
  • Find your allies
  • Push back
  • Listen to other’s experiences
  • Utilize online resources
  • Report the censorship/challenge
  • Push back
  • Repeat as needed

Read Banned Books

  • Books from different periods push boundaries in literature
  • Banned topics are often full of realism 
  • Relatable books are good for kids
  • Controversial books will lead to discussion
  • Request diverse books at the library or at school
  • Support local libraries

Resources and Organizations Fighting Book Bans

Organizations that work to provide statistics, produce reports, and create resources, need as much help as they can get. Consider submitting details of book challenges and bans in your community and encourage teachers and librarians to do the same!

Here are some resources to get started:

  1. National Coalition Against Censorship (Report Censorship)
  2. American Library Association (Challenge Reporting)
  3. National Council of Teachers of English (Report Censorship)
  4. PEN America (Report A Book Ban, bottom of page)
  5. WeNeedDiverseBooks (Resource list that includes Banned Book Resources)

Thank you for joining us for our 5th Annual Book Party – Topics of Advocacy and Banned Books! We hope that you learned something new about the process behind and impact of book banning in the United States. Let us know in the comments what you’ve learned and tell us your favorite banned book! #IncludasBookParty

Similar Posts