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Research Guides

Eastern Washington University Libraries

Young Adult Literature

Resources for books, reviews, author information, and more.

Role Plays to Try

Examples to try in class in teams of parents and teachers.

Challenged Books Located in Curriculum Center

EDUC 401 Web Site with Resources

Book Censorship

A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. (ALA Website)


Chris Crutcher's  web page

Frequently Banned & Challenged Books

School Censorship


Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom -recent reported cases of book targets in one section every issue ( bimonthly)- EWU has print and electronic access


"Thinking about Intellectual Freedom" Cooperative Children's Book Center Dept of Education U of Wisconsin--up to date list of definitions, articles, professional statements and checklists


First Amendment of U.S.  Constitution

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

American Library Association (ALA)

In 1986, in response to inquiries from librarians facing book or material challenges for the first time, the Intellectual Freedom Committee developed the following list of definitions to clarify terminology associated with challenges:

  • Expression of Concern. An inquiry that has judgmental overtones.
  • Oral Complaint. An oral challenge to the presence and/or appropriateness of the material in question.
  • Written Complaint. A formal, written complaint filed with the institution (library, school, etc.), challenging the presence and/or appropriateness of specific material.
  • Public Attack. A publicly disseminated statement challenging the value of the material, presented to the media and/or others outside the institutional organization in order to gain public support for further action.
  • Censorship. A change in the access status of material, based on the content of the work and made by a governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include exclusion, restriction, removal, or age/grade level changes

Questions- ethics, parent's rights, preparedness

  • National Coalition Against Censorship - information and advocacy
  • Parents Against Bad books in the Schools - group promoting limiting student access
  • Mel Gabler's Texas Textbook reviews
  • Key updated documents from organizations and English teachers and authors by Random House. Scan, download, read and consider-- this is some of the best summary of current thinking
  • Key article for English teachers (1999)
  • ReadWriteThink lesson on controversy
  • Basic steps to be prepared and improve your understanding:

    • Reflect regularly on your values, your understanding of teens, your belief in the value of literature and reading and teaching methods

    • Read the edgy books on common topics that are challenged- profanity, sex, violence, family values, religion

    • Learn how to write a rationale for a book, save common ones that are available

    • Be aware of your school’s policies and common understandings- book selection, curriculum adoption, form to request a title, challenge procedure, principal’s approach, language arts teachers

    • Know your local public librarian

    • Talk with young people about controversial issues- learn the techniques that make you comfortable

    • Maintain communication with parents- find the methods that work for your situation

    • Be prepared to offer valid choices to accomplish your goals

Being Prepared

Preventative Measures

Familiarize yourself with the concept of Intellectual Freedom, the First Ammendment, and Censorship.

Create/Review/Ask for support of your Selection policy

Create/Review/Ask for support of your Procedure for Handling Complaints

Now What? If someone challenges your selection for reading aloud, classroom library, text set, whole class reading

Form a committee of at least three people (often the administration does this but should have a librarian on the committee)

Read the entire book

  • If possible, have the principal or a board member read the entire book.

Create a list of why this book falls under your selection policy

Get support from colleagues

  • ALA, NCTE, and your state library association offer some services to librarians who are facing book challenges.
  • Talk to people who have successfully faced challenges.
  • The National Coalition Against Censorship has more suggestions on how to get board members, other organizations, librarians, and teachers to support you.
  • Discuss the situation with your staff and the Board of Education or the Library Board of Trustees.

Get support for the book

  • Email a listserv  to find out which other libraries carry the book.
  • Is the book on any Best Book lists?
  • Did it receive any awards?
  • Is the book on any standard bibliography list?
  • Have students write statements in support of the book.
  • If your library is part of a consortium or state-wide catalog, check that catalog and count how many schools of your level (elementary, middle, junior high, high school, etc) have the questioned title in their collection.
  • Collect reviews

Consider the situation

  • Did the student choose to read this book, or was it required?
  • Did the student read the entire book?
  • Did the parent/guardian who is challenging the book read the entire book?
  • Is the parent/guardian bringing attention to the situation by the media, does the parent have a large number of supporters, or is the situation staying between the library/classroom and the parent/guardian?
  • Review the complaint.

Report the situation to ALA and NCTE

Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom has monthly news (available in ProQuest) reports current issues across the country.