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Young Adult Literature: Intellectual Freedom

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

    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.

    Subject Guide

    James Rosenzweig's picture
    James Rosenzweig
    Office phone: 509-359-4262

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