April 23, 2017

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SLJ Controversial Books Survey: Comments About Book Challenges

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In SLJ‘s 2016 Controversial Books Survey, we asked school librarians to tell us about a book challenge they had personally experienced or to communicate any other information related to this topic.

Here’s what they had to say. Use the interactive controls provided to sort the comments below. Selecting an option in one of the three dropdown menus will filter the results to show only the comments for that region, locality, or school level. These filters can also be combined to see a very specific list. To clear any filter, simply choose the “ALL” option.

LIBRARIAN COMMENTS REGION LOCALITY SCHOOL LEVEL
FILTER RESULTS (select filters for one or more fields; select ALL to clear a filter):
A book on terrorism was challenged by a student because the cover showed a pic of Middle Eastern people. He hadn’t read it but I gave him the book challenge form, but it never came back. Just as I suspected, he was more interested in creating a stir that actually doing something about it. Northeast Urban H
A community read book (selected by another librarian in district) was challenged by a parent in my building. I had to provide evidence that book was age-appropriate (commonsense media) and reviewed well. Book was Hoot by Hiaasen and it was challenged due to language – ass damn Northeast Small Town EM
A kindergarten student took out a book on terrorism but thought it was about fire fighters because of the fire on the front. The parent called and asked why her child would’ve been allowed to take this book. I explained that it had slipped by in error and yes, it should not have been checked out to her young child. I do not censor titles but I do believe in age appropriateness and do not allow children to take out books that are not age appropriate. Canada Small Town EM
A parent asked that we remove all goosebumps and similar books from the library. I explained the process for challenging a book. I also explained that they had the right to limit what their child could read, but not what other children could read. They did not go forward with the challenge. Canada Urban EM
A parent brought a challenge directly to our principal over the title “L8R, G8R” by Lauren Myracle. We had TTYL & TTFN also on the shelves and the books were consistently and extremely popular with 6th grade girls. I bought the 3rd book based on the series popularity without having read the book, and by the reviews. I then read the book and agree that it was not appropriate for middle school. However, I believed and still do that the other two books are fine for our school library. The principal supported the parent in requesting all 3 books be removed. My English teachers privately agreed with me, but didn’t object the principal’s decision. Pacific Small Town M
A parent brought concerns about a book to the principal. A meeting was held with myself, principal, district representatives and the parent. We thought she would go through the formal challenge procedure. Instead she went to the Media (print & TV) to try to get the book banned. She felt this was her parental mission – to protect ALL students from this book. She never filed the paperwork and left the district. Administration asked that I remove the book from elementary to prevent any further problems. I acquiesced. Mountain Urban EM
A parent came in and wanted the book Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West : a novel, by Gregory Maguire taken off the shelf because of its content. I received information from my principal about a committee that was being formed to make the review. I read the book and made detailed notes on everything I thought she could object to. She came in to find out the particulars and I told her that in order for the challenge to go forward, one of the stipulations by the district review process was that she had to read the entire book so she could see the “problems” in the context of the whole book. She was unwilling to do that, so the challenge was dropped and the book stayed on the shelf. I have a sign in my library that very plainly states that there are all kinds of books on the shelves and it is up to the readers and their parents to decide what is best for them. I also sometimes use a little shoe store analogy with students who question my choice of books. When you go to a shoe store, do you throw away every pair of shoes you take off the shelf and don’t like? No, you put them back and pretty soon someone will come along who likes those shoes. Mountain Suburban H
A parent challenged the book “Out of the Dust”, stating that it was too violent for her fourth grade student. The challenge was settled by the site level review committee. Reference was made to a former BOE decision on a challenged book that was a result of mediation. The parent did not appeal to the next level (district level review committee). Her student finished the year at our school and, subsequently, was transferred to private school. South Central Suburban E
A parent challenged “The Golden Compass,” claiming I would turn all the children into atheist. I assured her that was not going to happen and explained it was her right as a parent to tell her child what they could read but not the books in my library. She didn’t read the book and never pursued the challenge. I did speak with my admin so they knew what was going on. Northeast Suburban M
A parent objected to her daughter borrowing So Hard to Say by Alex Sanchez based on reading the jacket copy. I explained my policy of including books that reflect our school community; she denied the existence of homosexuals in the school community. We have gay staff members, children of gay parents, and children who are gay or questioning, as is the main character in So Hard to Say. The school board president read the book, CCBC provided reviews and support materials. It was the first time anyone else read the library selection policy. The book is still in our collection. Midwest Urban EM
A parent objected to the book Aimee. She did not read the book. Her objection was really about the cover on the book. The model did not appear to have clothes on (wrapped in a sheet) and it implied a sexual story line. Midwest Rural MH
A parent talked to me about the book Swim the Fly has a blurb on the cover about boys wanting to see a naked girl. It was a Abe Lincoln award nominee at the time so it was on display. I asked her if she had ever read the book and she said she had not. I told her that I had and although the boys do have that as a goal it doesn’t work out the way that they thought it would (they see naked older people) and by the end of the book the protagonist matures and learns to value girls for more than just their looks. The cover is designed to get boys to read the book, but the book itself has a positive message and I invited her to read it. I also asked her if she wanted to make a formal challenge. We talked some more and she decided to drop the matter. Midwest Suburban H
A parent told me that I should remove a book because it contained nude images of fairies… She did not seem open to discussion on the subject so I removed the book for the duration of her visit and then replaced it on the shelf. End of story. Pacific Suburban EM
A parent told me that she and her boys were listening to an audiobook in the cart and she didn’t feel it was appropriate for their age level. I had read the book so I informed her that the book was not for her boys but was appropriate for an older audience. I told her to read reviews before she borrowed audiobooks or any book to know the target audience. Northeast Suburban EM
A situation where a middle school parent objected to her foster child borrowing a book relating to teenagers and sex. She wanted the book to not be a part of the collection. I suggested that the choice of this book might be a good opportunity for conversation that the student could find useful – if not with the foster parent than with someone else. Northeast Small Town M
A student checked out Speak by L.H. Anderson for a book report and her mother made her bring it back and get something else, and suggested the book be removed from the library. I did not remove it from the library. There was another book years ago that a parent challenged for bad language. Because it wasn’t that great of a book anyway, and was old and not being checked out very often at all, I just removed it and didn’t think twice about it. Midwest Small Town EM
A teacher aid complained about the vampire books in the collection, 58 out of over 17,000. This number included vampire bats, the “Twilight” series, and “Bunnicular”. There processes ended in the library’s favor after a full title review by administration and teachers from a different school. After 8 years I have had 3 challenges, Two in favor of the library, and one I agreed with the parent, the book was written for a more mature age group than the middle school. Midwest Rural M
A teacher questioned the appropriateness of The Da Vinci Code in the collection, saying it countered her religious beliefs and was blasphemous. Asked if we had religiously controversial titles such as Satanic Verses (we do). Used the materials selection policy to validate selections. No formal challenge was made, though I offered the option of placing one. Canada Urban H
A teacher thought Shrek by William Steig was inappropriate because the ogres are described as ugly. I regretfully did not add a book about a transgender child because “our community is not ready for that,” and I serve at the whim of a board of trustees made up predominantly of parents. South Atlantic Suburban EM
A volunteer did not notice the restricted label on a book and checked out a book to a 2nd grader that had mature content and language. The student’s mother was very upset and asked for the book to be removed (“It has no place in a Catholic School!”) and wanted to know how books were selected. I explained that her daughter should never have had the book, and that it was marked for 6-8th grades. I also explained that books were chosen based on professional reviews, curriculum considerations.This mother has not pursued the issue, but has asked that her daughter’s books be screened. I plan to present a Collection Development Policy along with a Materials Challenge form to my administrator soon. Midwest Suburban EM
A wordless book by Mercer Mayer. “Children showing disrespect to parents.” Midwest Suburban E
Again, I don’t buy a book just because it contains something, nor do I exclude it just because it does. So yes, some books that others might take issue with – for whatever reason – sometimes don’t get the nod. I have finite resources. I take reviews into account for most purchases, but certainly not all. I purchase all books on our HS state reading lists, regardless of content. South Central Urban H
Age appropriateness is a tough thing in middle school where some students are more mature than others but yet might not be ready to read high school material. It’s tough to balance appropriateness with not censoring. Northeast Suburban M
All too often lately I have shied away from purchasing a book because SLJ reviews it for grade 10 and up, while several other review sources say it’s appropriate for younger ages — sometimes much younger. Occasionally when I read the book for myself I agree, but usually I have a hard time seeing what makes something “grade 10 and up” as opposed to “grade 9 and up.” Mountain Urban MH
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher A parent bypassed the in place reconsideration form and sent 20 annotated pages of the book ( with underlined offensive content AND the reasons she believed it was inappropriate) to every member of the school board and superintendent without discussing the matter with me first. The board immediately required a committee set up (the next day–without giving time for the committee to read the book). The committee, consisting of the principal, a teacher, two parents and myself, decided to keep the book. When the parent was unhappy with the outcome, a district committee was formed. They decided to move the book to the high school. As a result, my superintendent wanted a list of “all of the books that could be considered controversial”. I told him that my list would include every book in the collection, because someone might find any book offensive. I also said the book at the top of the list would be the Bible. We compromised, he insisted on permission slips to check out “mature content” books. Midwest Suburban M
Although they’re not required in our selection process, I do read and rely on professional review, particularly School Library Journal, Hornbook, and BookList, although I read others as well. I particularly pay attention to the grade level recommendations. I have the most trouble deciding on books recommended for grades 5-8, knowing that 2nd graders are going to pick them up to read too. I do wish that reviewers would warn about profanity, as that’s something even my students come and tell me they’re uncomfortable with. Often I haven’t been aware of it until that happens. South Atlantic Suburban E
An upper school student didn’t think a particular book was appropriate for middle school students. It wasn’t a formal challenge, just a conversation that made the hair on the back of my neck stick up! Pacific Urban MH
And Tango Makes Three– I Love My Anteater with an A by Dahlov Ipcar Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business The Raven by Gerald McDermott Northeast Suburban E
At different school–parent had personally experienced sexual harassment and objected to inclusion of a book that included a suggestion of a rape in it (the text was not explicit, only a suggestion of the possible action in a tunnel.) Pacific Urban EM
Because we are private religious school, I sometimes have to refrain from buying books that might be too controversial for the student and parent body. I often try to replace it with something less controversial but on the same topic. Northeast Suburban H
Believe it or not, the book that was challenged wasn’t for content but rather for age. The back of the book stated for ages 10+ and a parent questioned why it was required reading for a tenth (ages 15-16) grade ELA class I was teaching. The book was Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen. The protagonists remind me of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and the novel is simply a lot of fun and drama in a coming of age story. There’s a bit of language and semi-adult situations, but totally innocuous considering today’s teens. South Atlantic Urban H
Book challenge was handled in house. I think the main publishing houses are too controlling of the content of the books we buy. Mountain Rural MH
Book challenged years ago on: High school– Snow Falling on Cedars and Tree of Red Stars due to sexual content; the cover of a book with a gun on it. Elementary school–challenge on a poetry book that had a person throwing a boy out a high rise; Bone series because the character went into a bar and requested a beer; swear words in a book a 2nd grader checked out; Pacific Rural EH
Both book challenges initiated by parents were dropped when I called the parent, listened to her complaints, clarified that she certainly had the right to keep her student from reading any book she thought was unsuitable, explained further that her challenge would mean the book would be removed from the shelf, making it unavailable for other students, talked further about reasons why I and other library media professionals thought the book appropriate for this collection. After our conversations, I sent out the required School District paperwork, which requires challenging parties to read the book. They chose not to pursue the challenge further. South Atlantic Urban H
Both of my experiences were actually requests for consideration that didn’t up escalating to a formal challenge. One was The Queen of Cool by Cecil Castellucci, and the other was This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. Both requests were from 6th grade parents (youngest grade level on my campus), and both went to the principal 1st. I read both books, thought they were probably a little mature for 6th grade, but definitely saw the value in having them in the collection for older students. I explained to parents why they were important to have in the collection, but understood their concerns (language, drug/alcohol use, sexual situation). I put a YA sticker on them, and now if 6th grade students want to check out those books they have to have parent permission. Both were satisfied with that solution and did not wish to take the issue further. South Central Suburban M
Cut – parent thought it was a manual for girls looking for a way to act out or get attention… Midwest Suburban M
Earlier in my career a parent challenged a paperback book that had a picture of a girl riding a horse on the cover. As the 3rd grade girl liked horses she borrowed the book. There was a scene in the book describing the girls breasts bouncing while she was riding the book. The parent was reading the book with the student and was distrubed by this passage. As I had not purchased the book for the library, and I believe it was a donation before I began my position, I decided to delete the book from the collection. It wasn’t great literature anyway. Northeast Suburban E
Grandparent challenged the book Little Rabbit Foo Foo stating main character was a bully. Book was reviewed by a panel of educators at the district level and was returned to the shelf. Mountain Urban EM
Graphic novel…This One Summer…many students were returning it complaining of content. Attempted to discuss …did they notice the difference in the way the character responded to the female and males in text etc…no go …couldn’t get past the strong language…mention of topics like blow jobs…etc Finally one student and her parent had brought the text in with sticky notes on all the pages with strong language, mention of porn, and the male sexual conversations. There were more than 25 sticky notes. She was offered the proper paperwork etc. During review I was able to convince them how this text really speaks to some students even though I myself was surprised by the highly controversial material for our ages. It is a book that begs analysis with peers but so many of our students found it offensive and I respect the desire to draw the line…The reviews DID NOT GO far enough in sharing about the controversial content for middle school students to inform my purchase. I bought 2 copies and am disappointed with the purchase. Sorry wrote this quickly South Central Small Town M
Having an administrator refuse to let me purchase several books because he didn’t approve of their content is not an official challenge as defined by our selection policy. I tried as professionally as I could to change the administrator’s mind, but the “pre-censorship” still occurred. Midwest Small Town EMH
Help us out by giving more reliable information in book reviews. We would like to know if it contains questionable material. We are located in a conservative Christian community and know we are not alone in desiring higher standards in YA literature. South Central Small Town H
I address the issue of reading level vs. content with my students………. both those who are restricted from our junior high section and those who are allowed to use it. We discuss ‘bad language’ in books (why does the character use it — is this normal? — why is it ‘bad’ and would you use it) ; ‘mature’ content in books ( why is it included — how do you view it) ; historical fiction vs. historical fact vs. historical viewpoint; science books, etc = do you laugh because it is funny or uncomfortable ? do you only laugh in a group or actually sit by yourself and laugh at scientific info? Discussing this up front has greatly reduced the number of complaints I’ve received. South Central Suburban EM
I am in the midst of one. Waiting to see if the parent calls back or goes further with his concerns that we add warning labels to books. Midwest Suburban M
I am the coordinator of librarians in my county so I have info from other schools as well: 1. The book “Flowers in the Attic” (which was purchased by the previous librarian and in the collection for many years) was challenged when I worked at a middle school. It, however, was not an official challenge because our administration does not follow the School Board approved challenge policy and just pulls books off the shelves if a parent objects. :( It was removed and I sent it to the high school. 2. This year a parent complained about sexual content in a book called “Mostly Good Girls”. The school serves grades 6-12. A middle school aged student had checked it out. The principal called me at home, since I am the “head” librarian, to fuss about the book (I do not work in that building); he took the book and it disappeared. That school has a policy that if a book is recommended as YA a spine label is attached so “only” high schoolers can check it out and it not allowed for middle school students. This book was YA in the reviews but the label was not affixed to it. Once again the challenge policy was not followed. 3. A parent at an elementary school complained that the giant in “Jack and the Beanstalk” gets drunk. All copies of the book were pulled from the library shelves in our entire county. SIGH Once again the challenge policy was not followed. 4. A student drew a gang symbol on his hand in middle school. He told the principal he saw it in a library book. The principal came to me and made me take every book off the shelves that related to gangs (even ones that tried to deter kids from joining). It turned out that the student actually saw it in a Guinness Book of World Records article related to the largest gangs or something like that. Once again the challenge policy was not followed. Can you tell we live in a small rural conservative area? I am often afraid I might lose my job because of books I purchase, especially, here at the high school where I now work. The content for this age level is much more mature than it was 2-3 decades ago when most of the administration and I were in school. So frustrating! South Atlantic Rural H
I am the Library Technology Teacher in an urban, alternative high school now. When I was the LTT in elementary school, a parent challenged The Slave Dancer by Fox that a teacher was using for whole class instruction. We asked the parent to fill out a created form. the parent eventually asked that her child didn’t read the book, instead made another choice. Mountain Urban EMH
I am very careful with book selection, spending hours and hours reading both print and on line sources. I do buy urban fiction with somewhat explicit sexual content, but I had to draw the line at 50 SHADES as inappropriate for a public high school. I told students who asked that they could get it at their local public library. I have never had a book challenged, but I feel I could justify most, if not all my selections. I will occasionally choose not to purchase a book it I feel it is too YOUNG for my readers, although I do purchase Hi-LO books for struggling or relectant readers. Northeast Urban H
I believe that there should be books for every child in every situation but I must be cognizant of parent’s wishes at all times in my elementary school. For ex: GLB topics or extreme racial violence for elementary students should be introduced within the family unit. Midwest Suburban E
I buy picture books for my high-school to use for various subject areas. I decided not to purchase “The Day the Crayons Quit” because there was only one skin tone… we serve a diverse population of both native born, newcomers from over 30 countries, as well as our own Indigenous/First Nations students. Canada Suburban H
I can’t remember the exact title because I did take it off the shelf. The book was about two friends and one had two moms. It was for approximately grades 4-6. A parent was very upset and felt that it was most inappropriate for our small Catholic school. South Central Suburban EM
I code any books that contain mature topics, strong language, violence, etc. in our catalog system. When a student checks out a book I can alert them of the content and help them with a different selection, if they choose. I find students really seem to gravitate to the books that they are ready for, maturity wise…such as my younger 7th graders really go for those appropriate for a middle school student. More mature students gravitate to the edgier titles. Pacific Rural MH
I do worry about where young adult books are headed. I don’t mind gritty stories but I don’t think even my high schoolers need to read graphic sex and I am seeing more and more graphic content. South Central Rural H
I don’t worry about content (and typically not even reviews). I buy what I can afford based on my practically nonexistent budget from places such as bargain tables at book stores, yard sales and I accept donations! I actually look forward to having a parent challenge a book because it would mean they are actually monitoring what their teen is reading and taking an interest in the student’s learning! South Atlantic Rural H
I experienced a book challenge with a comic book ( Dance class) about a school of young ballerinas. Parents were concerned with the images of thin ballerinas arguing that it was promoting an unhealthy lifestyle and nutrition. One school decided to eliminate from the collection the series Dance class. This was done after a written complaint and an evaluation with the school library committee. This library committee is composed of the school principal, two teachers, one library volunteer and the librarian consultant. One librarian consultant is responsible for 9 schools. This comic book series was a non-issue in all the other schools. Canada Suburban EM
I had a parent challenge the Bone series. She said it had the main character watching a girl bathe and that they drank beer. It is a graphic novel but it didn’t show anything and didn’t even state right out that he saw anything. And only the adults drank beer and it wasn’t a big part of the story. The town met in the pub for a town meeting as they used to do, and some partook of the drinks available. It went all the way up to the school board because she really wanted it gone. The book won and I didn’t have to pull it. Mountain Suburban E
I had a parent complain about content in a fiction title that used the f word quite often. I was called in to the Principal’s office and told that the title was being pulled. He said, basically, “no f word.” I sent him the reviews and explained that I wouldn’t necessarily know when the word is being used based on what information I am given. End of story. I try to avoid what I consider “offensive” words, but I do not consider them damaging to a 14 year old. Would I want my own 6th grader reading those words? No. It is a fine line. I suppose that I, personally, object to profanity over anything else I have encountered in young adult literature. Although, most recently, I purchased the award winning graphic novel This One Summer and pulled it off the shelf after reading it, as I felt it had no socially redeeming value. Self censorship? Maybe. I have to go with my education, experience, and my heart. Midwest Rural M
I had Darren Shan’s, Demonata series challenged by a parent who believed that horror titles had no place in children’s libraries. The family left our public school for private school. I had a parent challenge Unwind, by Neal Shusterman because it promoted abortion (?). Pacific Suburban M
I have actually had a first grade student tell me that a particular book (The Odyssey: a graphic novel by Hinds) is inappropriate because there is a drawing of a woman who is naked (though she is sitting and her hair covers her up). I’ve never had a problem with the book though. I had to remind the student that he gets to choose his owns books and we celebrate our intellectual freedom in our library. Everybody makes their own choices as to what they read. Pacific Urban EM
I have been a librarian for 5 years and have never pulled a book due to a challenge. I have had 2 challenges, but in both cases, I gave the parent our standard challenge form to fill out and the parent never brought it back. So, the case was never pursued. South Central Urban M
I have been an elementary school librarian for 10 years now and have only received one book challenge. A parent saw the book her child was reading and read it herself. The parent wrote me a letter that said the book was inappropriate for school because it was calling people fat and being disrespectful to parents and adults because the children in the story were making fun of the adults. The parent told me that she does not teach her child these things and that the book should be taken off the shelf. I read the book myself and personally did not like the content myself either. However, I realized that the book was written, not to be disrespectful, but to be fun and entertaining for children. I did not see this as a reason to remove the book from the shelf and told the principal so. The principal allowed the book to remain on the shelf and we let the parent know the reasons why it was still there. Midwest Urban E
I have contemplated putting an ‘8th grade only’ shelf together but have been hesitant to do anything that might be considered offensive by administration. Middle school is a difficult group to purchase for because students run the gamut from very young and naive to mature and sophisticated. Northeast Suburban M
I have experienced a school administrator placing a book in his desk drawer after the parent brought it to his attention. (6th grade mother – book:What’s Happening to My Body? Book for Girls. reviewed booklist, SLJ, VOYA, selected as a best book for young adults by ALA) She objected to one part about masturbation. I was not told about it until I asked the child about her overdue book and she told me that her mom had talked to the Principal about it! He gave me the book from his drawer and I put it back on the shelf. We had a challenge policy in place – I assume he did not inform her. A local elementary school had experienced a FORMAL challenge a couple of years prior that had gone all the way to the school board. The book remained in the collection. Northeast Suburban M
I have experienced many books challenges in my career (past 35 years), in IA, SD & CT in 4 different school districts. First in Iowa, in 1982, in small school district, with Headman by Kin Platt for the language in M.S. and moved it up to H.S. Library. Second and Third and Fourth in South Dakota, in 1982-84 for “Trying Hard to Hear You” for same sex kiss, then for Books on a Senior Independent Reading list where a Principal wanted any title that had ever been questioned removed (retained all books after lengthy explanation of Senior Students having right to choose). Then in 1984, with the MARSHALL CAVENDISH DOCTOR’S ANSWERS MEDICAL HEALTH ENCYCLOPEDIA, which had questionable pictures in the “S” Volume, administrator tried to pull/censor entire encyclopedia, retained the encyclopedia with restriction to “Cover” the pictures in that volume that adminstration ordered. Then, in 1986, in a rural town, in CT, with a joint Public and School Library, where parent kept ‘checking out’ then ‘losing” the VC Andrews Book “Flowers in the Attic” to try to censor the Library. Then in 1994, when an elementary school in our suburban school district tried to censor Goosebumps, at that time our Selection Policy and Adminstration responsible for the committee to review books in question, operated well. Goosebumps challenge resulted in the books staying on the shelves and the parent being told they may limit what their own child reads but the school would not be removing these books that were age appropriate from the library. Then in 2003, we had an Elementary School Principal pull “Heart of a Chief” from the Library due to a confused discussion from a parent claiming they discussed “abortion” in class… which was a misunderstanding… but the Selection Policy Reconsideration Policy was not followed and it took a year to get it back in the Library. Then in 2007, we had a H.S. Principal ask about E.Lockhart’s “Boy Book” as a parent phoned about it, not wanting his daughter (15 yr old) to be allowed to check it out… and then a second book “The boyfriend list”… as the Principal partially tried to censor by checking the two books out and sitting on them for 8 months and claimed we didn’t want our girls reading a book that had a chapter on “Boobs” … (a chapter was titles “boobs” but was just teen angst writings in a diary of sorts shared by young teen girls. Books were retained in the end, Principal never followed through with proper procedure. I sent the parent the Request for Reconsideration form, but he failed to fill it out and submit anything. You may contact me if you have any questions: Joy Parker Fitzgerald, Librarian Media Specialist, currently at a H.S. with email: librarymed@aol.com Northeast Suburban H
I have found that you cannot predict challenges. The books that have been challenged during the 18 years I’ve worked in our school district came out of left field. Midwest Suburban EM
I have had my current principal pull two books – one, a non-fiction that referenced religion and one that was a Caldecott winner. Both were brought to his attention due to a parent or teacher complaint. Neither went through the formal challenge process. Northeast Rural EM
I have had only one challenge in the eight years I’ve worked at my school. A staff member saw a book on a cart, but she did not realize cart held weeded books so the challenge was moot. The book itself wasn’t bad, but it was a) a book about a movie that was adapted from a book and b) geared toward middle grades and I work at a high school. All in all, I’m pretty happy with my challenge record because I try to make decisions that meet the needs of the entire school community and do not buy books just because they are popular, have won awards, or satisfy a single agenda. Northeast Suburban H
I have had several challenges that have not passed the preliminary stages. The parents objections were met when they learned that the particular title was only one in a collection that spanned the depth of the issue involved. Northeast Suburban H
I have had several verbal challenges, but after we discuss board policy, purpose of the school library, and needs of the students, plus discussing the formal challenge procedures, the student, staff of parent has chosen not to move forward. The only guardian who chose to more forward to a formal challenge did NOT challenge having the book, Suckerpunch by David Hernandez in the library. She challenged having it as a choice for a literature circle read. We followed board policy, convened a reading committee and said it should only be a literature circle choice for 11th and 12th graders. It took a couple of months for the process and to reach a conclusion. The principal agreed with our conclusion and presented it in to the guardian and the guardian was satisfied. The board policy has changed to where the superintendent will handle book challenges. I am not sure it would play out the same way. Mountain Small Town H
I have had two books informally questions. The first book was The Boy Who Lost is Face by Sachar. Parent was concerned about language and the boy not respecting his mom. The second book was a book about the history of weapons in war. This book was first put on the shelves twelve years before I became the librarian. It remains on the shelves. The teacher (3rd grade) did not want her students bringing any books to her room that had guns. This became a non-issue in my school library when the teacher transferred to a different school. In both cases, the parties involved wanted to express their opinion, but did not want to go public with a complaint. Mountain Suburban E
I have never experienced a book challenge, but the last district I was in would not allow Ellen Hopkins to speak at one of the teen lit days. The challenge came from a parent who took it straight to the superintendent who denied the request. South Central Small Town H
I have not experienced a book challenge (but before I arrived, one student requested that a dated book on Native Americans be removed because it was not accurate). I have had one parent ask specifically that a book be restricted from the younger grades. At that time I began using an age limit sticker on books families reported were disturbing to their children. I have 4 books with such stickers. One is a book on pirates that shows them being punished by hanging. 3 are books on ghosts and hauntings. Young students may check them out if their parents give the ok. I’ve had 3 students get their parents’ ok. I’ve been at my school for 20 years. Pacific Urban EM
I have not experienced any serious challenges. I have had specific parents speak with me about books (<5) about books they did not want their child to take out which I will honor. Northeast Suburban E
I have not had a specific book challenge here at the elementary school, but I have been involved in several book challenges at the HS level. In all cases, the book challenge procedure was followed. The book was read and reviewed by a committee of teachers, librarians, administrators, and parents. The librarians emphasized and deferred to the experienced reviewers and/or ALA recommendations to explain the purchase of the material, and in all cases, the committee recommended that the book remain in the library and available, asking that the concerned parent advise the librarian regarding reading preferences for their child only. Northeast Rural EM
I have not yet been challenged on any of my books in my school library. This is our policy on controversial material: D. Controversial Material 1) Any person desiring to challenge an item must present the challenge in writing and it must be signed. 2) A committee consisting of the librarian, the principal, and one parent will be assigned to consider the criticism and make a decision about the material. 3) Item in question will remain on the shelf until a final decision has been made. Intellectual Freedom Statement: Education is best served by encouraging all learners to read broadly and well. Mountain Urban MH
I have occasionally had a parent or student object to language in a book, but its very rare. Mountain Urban E
I have older administrators who take the position that sharing books where characters engage in inappropriate or risky behaviors will motivate students to emulate that behavior. That flies entirely against the pedagogy of the library but as these people determine my job stability (as year-to-year contracts are the norm here), I have to toe the line. As a result, I still buy what I am sure they consider “controversial” materials, I am far more careful about book-talking them and I never put them on display. This behavior goes against my professional integrity but since my school will not approve a formal book complaint process (as a means to protect both the books and my job), I am left with little choice. Northeast Urban EM
I have personally experienced challenges to The Bronze Bow (parent objecting to the portrayal of Jews) and Chato’s Kitchen (parent objecting to red bandana worn by Novio Boy). The Bronze Bow went through a step by step district policy and was removed from the course it was being used in due to a mismatch of curriculum, but remained in the district libraries. The district policy was initially ignored with the challenge to Chato’s Kitchen, but was re-evaluated and followed policy and was reinstated to the district libraries. Pacific Suburban EM
I have received two formal book challenges: one for language (swearing) and one because the book referred to a past crime involving a mass shooting in a mall (but no violent details were given). Neither challenge went far. This is my seventeenth year as a K-5 librarian and it has become increasingly difficult to avoid swearing, violence and sexual references in children’s literature. I have become somewhat more lenient in what I purchase. My biggest frustration is when a terrific book for kids is very age-appropriate in every way EXCEPT for one sentence or paragraph that seems to be stuck in there for NO good reason! I see no reason for that, and it honestly makes my job much more difficult. I have had to pass up purchasing some wonderful books because of very unnecessary content that seems to be thrown in simply for shock value. Frustrating and I’d honestly like to know WHY authors do that!! Midwest Suburban E
I haven’t dealt with a book challenge directly, but then I made sure that I had a sound collection development policy in place, and approved by the school administration. I have had a couple of parents object to books for their child, I emphasized to them and our students that if they have checked out a book that is not for them, return it and get another. I have a large collection, and it is possible to find something for everyone in our library. South Central Suburban EM
I keep typing these answers in the wrong place. A parent challenged a non-fiction book because it was about gangs. I told him that the book was looking at the gang situation, not encouraging students to join gangs. I told him he would have to read the book if he was going to challenge it. He was mainly a Spanish speaker, so he was intimidated by that suggestion and withdrew the challenge. However, when Library Services found out about the challenge they came to my school to look at the book and had me take it off the shelf because it was an older book that they felt no longer had relevance. Pacific Urban H
I mentioned a couple of challenges on Drama, but they did not reach the formal stage. One mom (grandma) shared that she was thankful that I just listened to her and didn’t make her feel stupid. Midwest Suburban EM
I personally have opted to not put a book on the shelf because of the graphic sexual content. It was an LGBT purchase that went into great detail about a rape and other experiences. Even for mature high school students it was a bit much. I also refused to purchase Fifty Shades of Grey novels because they are not literature and the sexual content is not appropriate for middle or high school. I had Shel Silverstein challenged as an elementary librarian but I did not remove it from the shelf. Pacific Urban H
I purchased the book This One Summer, a Caldecott honor book, because it was an award winner for children 14 and under. I was so disappointed when I received the book because the content certainly did not fall into the category of “Children Book.” It certainly was not something that I would want any of my students to think is life today. I feel that the Caldecott committee manipulated the description for the award. It is an embarrassment to all the other Caldecott winners. Pacific Suburban E
I served on my district’s review committee for challenges. As such, I voted with colleagues on whether to retain, move to another level or remove books from media collections at all levels. South Atlantic Suburban E
I simply don’t purchase controversial books at all. It is our philosophy that books of this nature should be purchased by the parents and discussed at home if this is the parents’ wishes. It would be really refreshing if the children’s book industry spent more time publishing wholesome literature for children. Midwest Suburban E
I tell students they know their family. They should discuss with their family what is appropriate for them. Northeast Suburban EM
I thought it was interesting on Facebook, one of my “friends” said that he saw that the Lorax had been considered a banned book. He was outraged that it could no longer be in school libraries. I tried to explain as best I could that just because it is considered banned, doesn’t mean we have to remove it. At least I hope it doesn’t, because I haven’t removed any that I saw on a banned list! Those books tell me I should take a second look at the content of the book, but usually I find that it is not a relevant concern in our area or for our readers. South Central Small Town E
I was a classroom teacher at the time and a parent challenged a book that a student checked out of my classroom library ( our middle school library also had the book). I applauded the parents for knowing what their child was reading and being a part of their student’s reading life. I also reiterated that fact that parents have the right to monitor the books that their children but that I need to have books available for all students coming from many different families. My principal supported me on this and was present for the meeting. The parents did agree that they did not have the right to tell other parents what their kids should read nor should they want that right taken away from them. It was one meeting and was resolved on the spot. Pacific Suburban M
I was challenged by the Mr. Tucket series by Gary Paulsen. A parent told me that the book was too graphic for his child and felt that it should either be removed from the library or limited to the older students. At that time I did not have a challenge policy in place, and was new in my job. I asked one of the teachers about the book. He read it and said that it was graphically violent and he questioned the book, too. I read one of two of the series, agreed, and removed the set from the library. I wrote a letter to the parent informing him of the decision. Very soon after that I researched and came up with a policy because I did not want parents to think they could just disapprove of a book and we would automatically remove it. I have used the procedure once. Pacific Small Town EM
I was working in a K-8 Catholic school and the principal and priest required me to remove The DaVinci Code from the Library. It was a book that many 8th graders were interested in reading. Though I had a formal challenge policy in place, once the priest required me to remove it, I had no choice. In a Catholic school, the priest can usurp ANY policy or procedure with ABSOLUTELY NO ROOM FOR ARGUMENT OR DISCUSSION. Ironically, in the 27 years I was a Librarian in this Catholic school, I never once had a challenge from any parent or teacher, except for this time. Midwest Suburban E
I work in a VERY conservative rural school and am from WI where Act 10 is in force and so I do not have a union to protect my job. I do not select anything very controversial because of this. I am being forced out of my job for next year because I choose to be outspoken on the way the library is run. It is only open 1/2 days which does not serve this school properly. A parent challenged the book, Julie of the Wolves that her fourth grade child read. It had an old accelerated reader tag on the book stating 4.?. I was new to the library at that time. The principal who has no idea how a library is run (and doesn’t care to know) was also upset that we had a book in our library that made reference to a rape by a man of his wife. I explained to the parent that we do not restrict what students check out for the most part and that it was up to her to decide if her child should be reading a certain book. I explained where one parent would not want their child to read that kind of material another parent would be okay with it. I showed her how to log into our library from home to check what books would be acceptable for her daughter to check out and she was agreeable to it. I mentioned to her that she could have her daughter bring home the books she checked out and she could look them over before she read them. As long as I appeased the parent, I never heard from the principal about it again. Midwest Rural EM
If a book is challenged anywhere in the school district, I make it a point to purchase it for the library. Midwest Suburban M
If I see a book that contradicts our selection policy, I try to find something similar with educational value Midwest Urban H
I’m fine with including books with controversial content, however, I do feel that the book should have some literary merit and be age-appropriate. Mountain Suburban H
I’m lucky because any fiction that I worry might be too much for the 6-8 graders, I can put into the high school collection, and if their parents say ok, they can check it out. I think I’d run into more challenges if I didn’t have that option. I have dealt with informal challenges about language 3 times and have explained why the language in the books (all middle school) was indeed appropriate and necessary. In all 3 cases, the challenger backed down and the book stayed in the library without formal procedures. I’ve never had a high school challenge. Midwest Rural MH
In another school system but still in Iowa Harry Potter was challenged at the elementary library when it first came out. We followed the policies and the School Board recommended it stay on the shelf. The parents will told to write a letter so I would know which books their children could not check out. Years later I asked some of those now high school children if they ever read Harry Potter. They said yes but their parents still didn’t know that! Midwest Suburban H
In my community, language and sexual content seem to be the hot-button issues when students and parents have shared concerns about books. I am disappointed that I often have to avoid purchasing a great book because of one or two “f – ” words or content that is too explicitly described for a 10 – 14 year-old audience. Violence, on the other hand , has never been an issue. Northeast Rural EM
In our library which serves 6th-12th grade, Accelerated Reader labels are helpful in determining age-appropriate books (ex. MG, MG+, UG). South Central Small Town MH
In the past I’ve had parents or students express concerns with no formal action taken, but this year I’ve actually emailed or printed out the official district book challenge process twice. So far neither of them has actually started the process. In both cases the parents want the administrator to make the book “disappear” or they’ve wanted to start a neighborhood or Facebook-type petition to show how many others would agree with them. Mountain Suburban MH
In the same evening, at a book fair, I had two different parents criticize the fairy tale books I was offering for sale. One parent thought I shouldn’t be offering *any* of them; the other thought I wasn’t offering *enough* of them.You can’t please all of the people all of the time. As long as the principal is ok with me, I’m good! Midwest Suburban E
It is challenging to provide materials engaging and relevant to 8th graders in a school that also has 6th graders. Midwest Suburban M
It is very important to use review sources to purchase books for libraries as well as classrooms. Pacific Suburban H
It was not an official book challenge – the parent had the 6th grade student return the book and was directed to choose something else. The book mentioned the protagonist getting her period. Northeast Suburban H
It was not an official challenge, but a parent sent me an email stating specific concern she had about a book her 6th grade daughter brought home. The book was a non-fiction guide to middle school issues a girl might face. It included a section on what oral sex was and the consequences of this activity and how to handle a request for this from a boyfriend. I ended up removing the book from my collection and giving it to the school counseling office to place in their book collection for students that may need private help with this issue. South Atlantic Suburban M
It’s difficult to purchase sometimes because I serve 11-14 year olds and that’s a WIDE maturity range. Midwest Small Town M
I’ve had 2 challenges, 1 a teacher, 1 a parent. Both challenges ended in the library after I explained our policy, and listened carefully to the objections our patrons had to books. We were able to come to a good conclusion without removing the titles. Pacific Suburban EM
I’ve had 2-3 book challenges in my career as media specialist. One was for a HS student for a James Patterson book. It was a donated book…nothing became of it. Recently I had a challenge over a graphic novel at the MS level. The parent who challenged is “an author” herself and teacher in another district. I didn’t find the material to be concerning. Basically she complains about everything. I thanked her for her concern and told her how to access our school’s library collection online so she and her son could choose books together. I didn’t offer to police his check outs and I’m not going to start. Library books are voluntary reading and I tell me students that if they select something that is too mature for them turn it in and select something else. Midwest Small Town MH
I’ve had many threaten to challenge a book, and I have had administrators insist a book be removed. I explain that I’ll read it for age-appropriateness and check reviews, and will act accordingly. If there isn’t anything except one or two opinions against a book and reviews are appropriate for these grade levels, the book remains on the shelf. South Central Urban M
I’ve had several. “Yolanda’s Genius” was challenged because there was an issue with a gun and the parent was upset. The book easily withstood the challenge and remained on the shelf. I had a parent who challenged “Monster Mama” because she felt the artwork was too violent for her child. An understanding and reasoned discussion with the mother led to us putting a note on the child’s computer record that she wanted him to avoid violent materials, with no change in our library collection. I’ve found that 90% of the time if I just sit down and talk with the parent we can resolve the issue without further ado. Pacific Suburban E
I’ve never experienced a formal book challenge, but last year a parent questioned the content of a graphic novel her son had brought home. The public librarian and I looked at it and decided that we agreed with her so we pulled the book. Having patrons from preschool on up in age and no aide or para to help us help them with their book choices, we can’t have the same type materials a larger community might have. Midwest Small Town EMH
I’ve never experienced a formal challenge but I have had parents complain about particular books. When they do, I give them a copy of our selection policy and explain that students are instructed to select “just right” books and that includes books that reflect your family values and I invite parents to have that discussion with their children. I also explain that a book that is not just right for their child may be just right for another. And that’s usually as far as it goes. That was at the elementary level. I’ve not had any complaints about books at the middle school. Pacific Urban EM
I’ve never had a formal book challenge. I have had parents ask that their child not check out certain materials, which of course is the parent’s prerogative. Northeast Rural EMH
I’ve not had a book challenge but do have a policy if we were to ever have one. We are a small Catholic school so I have a little more freedom to pick and choose but I try to have a wide variety of books without doing too much censoring. I try to select a lot of books that teach good lessons or values. South Central Suburban EM
I’ve only experienced challenges from two teachers, one for “The Golden Compass” and one for “Life is Funny.” Both times the books were returned to the shelves by the principal. South Atlantic Small Town H
Language and sexual orientation are the challenges I get. Being a Catholic school, I have to be very careful about any books regarding sexual orientation and I use reviews and peer recommendations to back up any that I do purchase. I feel students should have access, but they are placed in a section for upper grade students only. South Central Small Town EMH
Many years ago while employed by a public library in the midwest, there was an adult patron who challenged an adult nonfiction art book. He felt young children should not see some of the photos/drawings included in the work. He did fill out a challenge form, but when the director and board reviewed the work and decided not to pull it from the shelves, the patron accepted their decision. Midwest Rural H
Most recently, Avi’s Nothing But the Truth was challenged by the older brother and parent of a 4th grader for inappropriate language. Two Orson Scott Card books were removed from the middle school library for having inappropriate language and references to prostitution. We walk a fine line between books from the religious presses which are often too didactic for many of our readers and those from the popular presses which relate to culturally unacceptable topics for observant Jewish kids. South Atlantic Urban EM
My library was once a library for 5th-8th grades. I am careful when checking out books to my younger students. Some of my books are not appropriate for them. Northeast Urban E
My only challenge was a magazine where the parent was protesting an ad in the magazine not the content of the magazine itself. We removed that issue only. South Atlantic Suburban E
My principal did not approve of maturation books being available on the shelf for all students to read or check out. She actually took several books without my knowing and kept them in her office for over a year. I keep those behind my desk for those students with permission, but all other books are on the shelves. I had a parent actually deface a book and would not return or replace one of my Harry Potter’s when the first came out. I tried to explain my and the districts position on books as well as return policy, but she didn’t care. I have had students mention that there is a “bad” word or other mature things such as artwork in books. I try to always take the high road. I ask to see the bad word, Wednesday it was the word, “beer”. I explained the content of the comment, and the student was fine with the explanation. Other times, they have decided to turn in the book. One Eyewitness book with nude artwork was quite an issue with some very young patrons. I explained that it was “ART” not nudity, and only for big kids and adults to enjoy. If they were giggling, they were too immature to read that book and the teacher would return it, then they wouldn’t have anything to read. They got mature really quickly. It is all in how you handle the situation, and it isn’t the end of the world if someone doesn’t like what you have to offer. I always say that at least 10% of my collection should be objectionable to someone! South Central Urban E
My principal, also a father to a student at my school, issued a formal challenge against a graphic novel in my library. His complaint was over scantily clad characters. The challenge eventually snowballed into his desire to remove all graphic novels from our district’s middle schools. This caused us to have to create a selection policy specifically for graphic novels (manga in particular). The difficulty in purchasing manga is the lack of traditional reviews, so we created a system to protect us and our students in the event of another challenge. South Central Suburban M
Neither of my book challenges went any further than me. I removed the one with sex on page, no appropriate for middle school and I talked to the parent about the other book and maybe her niece would like to check out another book. Pacific Suburban M
Often the school library is the only access a student has to information and it is difficult to make the determination of what can and what cannot be on the shelves. Many students at my school do not go to the public library and the school library is the place where they are exposed to what a library has to offer. I do not feel it is my job to regulate what high school students read or have access to as many are almost adults. School libraries want to provide information and support curriculum and that is exactly what School Librarians do. Independent reading is a big part of the Language Arts curriculum and many books from Harry Potter to Ellen Hopkins to Nicholas Sparks contain subject matter that may be deemed controversial but that is up to families to determine individually. Mountain Urban H
On the few occasions when I have ordered a book and then upon examination determined that it may be inappropriate I have sought advice from department heads and administration as to what our next step should be. About half the time the decision has been collectively made to keep it on the shelf. The other half the decision has been to return it to the vendor. So far we have not faced a challenge but if we did I would like to think the Library would be supported by the principal and teaching staff. Canada Suburban H
One parent objected to her daughter reading Fudgemania by Blume because of a passage where one of the characters was oiling a baseball glove. The mother thought it was very sexual. Another mother objected to Wizardology due to religious beliefs. In both cases, I explained they had every right to monitor their children’s reading, but the books would stay in the library. Both seemed to be content enough for us to keep those books away from their children. Neither wanted to pursue an out and out challenge which would include their reading of the objectionable book in its entirety before a formal hearing about it with the department head and librarians. Northeast Suburban E
One parent questioned a title (meant for grades 7 through 10) when she saw her 8th grade son reading it. She claimed to have read the book. She did not contact me, she wrote a letter to the superintendent highlighting the “horrors” she found within. The superintendent contacted my department chairperson and principal. The department chairperson had removed the book from both the junior high and high school library shelves the night before I learned of the challenge. When I pulled out the challenge policy the department chairperson and principal re-interpreted the policy to mean, “If the principal believes the presence of the book in the school library should be questioned then the steps of the policy would be put into place. If the principal agrees with the person questioning the books presence than it will be removed from the shelves.” The superintendent, principal, and library department chairperson refused to read the book, saying that the areas that the parent pointed out were so awful that there was no question in their minds that it should be removed. Then, they asked me to list other books that might be questionable. I replied that I did my homework when selecting the books and therefore, none of them were questionable. Since then, I am much more conservative in making my selections…unfortunately. Northeast Suburban M
One time I had a parent of a 7th-grade girl object to a book she was reading that referenced “hook-ups”. The parent, a young, highly religious Christian woman, sat down with me and very calmly explained what she didn’t like about the book. She told me she talks to her daughter at length about what she reads and asks her if she thinks each book is an appropriate choice and why. I was able to very honestly praise her for her engaging, empathetic parenting style and told her I wish more parents would take such an active role in their children’s reading experiences. And I also mentioned that we have some very mature students who are older who are ready for such books and enjoy them. I encouraged the mother to continue to influence her daughter and that I couldn’t justify denying a book to students who would enjoy it. We parted amicably, and I have great respect for the parent and told her so. She never took the request higher. It is my experience that students only read the books they are ready to read. If a young person is not yet interested in dating, he or she will not select books about dating. The reverse is also true, and I don’t want parents unnecessarily limiting their child’s book choices. In the past, I have helped students figure out a way to hide books from their parents, but I never got the chance in this case. The student spent less and less time in the library and I never got the chance. I have a teenage daughter. I hope she reads books that she won’t tell me about. Pacific Rural M
Our 5th graders sometimes want materials that are too mature for our elementary collection. We actually support a little satellite “heading to middle school” shelf in the 5th grade hallway for items like Divergent, Hunger Games, that we don’t feel belong _in_ our library. These are taken care of by the students. Northeast Urban E
Our library is set up to serve our diverse population of special needs and general education students. We believe that the safest place for students to experience life is between the covers of a book where the problems have a definitive outcome and students can build knowledge to make their own decisions. Northeast Suburban EMH
Our school board & superintendent tried to remove school librarians several times and our community rallied against it. So now they are trying to “deprofessionalize” the positions by slowly removing our professional job responsibilities. One of those responsibilities was the area of book challenges and censorship. Challenges have been removed from the librarian’s duties to the building principal’s. UGH, most of them are clueless! Midwest Small Town EM
Our school has a Diversity Commitment and a strong focus on building an inclusive environment. The library collection supports this mission by including books on a wide range of topics that may be considered controversial. Pacific Suburban EM
Ours is a Baptist School, so perhaps the most sensitive issue is the Gay/Lesbian content. Drama by Telgemeier was challenged and we removed it after review by the committee and the administration. It was criticized because it has too flippant an attitude toward what was considered a very serious decision (of whether one was gay). We also had a parent challenge to the Golden Compass, and that was overruled (we kept the title). South Central Urban EM
Over the past 8 years, I have had two parents question me about the content of a book their child read (one an leveled reader and the other a YA fiction book). In both cases it was about age appropriateness of the content and they didn’t proceed with a formal challenge. Canada Rural EMH
Parent challenged book because the word “nigger” was used. The author was African American and district committee decided to keep book. Midwest Urban H
Parents complained about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and our Director of Schools made all the librarians in the district pull the books off the shelves and keep them in our offices. Parents had to send in a note with their child giving permission to check out the book. After that Director of Schools left, we were able to put the books back on the shelves. The book is now on the required reading list! South Central Suburban H
Parents have called and complained about a book but have never proceeded with a challenge. South Atlantic Small Town M
Principal handled – diverted parent from making formal challenge – item viewed as appropriate for elementary school by principal and parent advised of their responsibility to monitor their child’s reading; or advise their child as to their (parent’s) guidelines. South Atlantic Suburban E
Several years ago we had a challenge on one of the Lone Star titles. We went through the process, and I was very disappointed that the campus committee voted to remove the book. The issue was language, even though one of the main characters immediately reacted by telling the speaker that it was inappropriate. Only one other committee member was in favor of keeping the book on our shelves. Within the next couple of years, we also had a challenge about a magazine, which was also removed, based on the inappropriateness of advertisements. The magazine was somewhat less defensible, and the principal did not go through the process, just telling me to take it off the shelves. We are a very conservative community, and some years before the district had experienced a challenge over Huckleberry Finn, which resulted in a lot of publicity and controversy. Our principal did not want either of these challenges to get past the campus level and create additional controversy. I have had other challenges, which were dropped due to parents not wanting to go through the process. South Central Rural M
Since I only work part time at my library, when a parent/employee brought to my attention a book’s cover that was personally offensive to her, rather than risking a book challenge and losing support, I chose to remove the book from the collection. I hadn’t personally purchased the book but it was already in the library collection when I was hired to replace the former teacher/librarian who could have bought it. There is also a library assistant that could have either purchased personally, acquired through donation, or chose from a parent group run book fair donation, that book or any number of books/materials in this particular library. Materials in elementary libraries many times are added to libraries by people not educated on collection development nor worried that they be held accountable for the collection (book) challenges that may occur. Unfortunately, our children’s need and desire for new materials, lack of funding for elementary librarians, lack of sustainable if any funding for books/materials, and the assumption that every child can “read on an electronic device”, has pushed library assistants and teacher-librarians to allow less than quality or adequately reviewed materials to be cataloged and then checked out to children. Are our elementary libraries on the cusp of extinction? Say it isn’t so! Mountain Urban EM
Sixth-grade parents challenged The Hunger Games several years ago. They challenged the book based on violence and sexuality. At the time, it was a school-wide read by every student in the school. It was on the South Carolina Junior Book Award list at the time of the challenge. The book was not removed from the shelf, but we had to find an alternate title for those students who were not allowed to read it. South Atlantic Rural M
So much of deciding to include any controversial books in the collection is knowing exactly how an activity is represented in the book. It’s all about the context and whether the characters experience any consequences after participating in risky behaviors. I would love to see thorough reviews of books that advise of any potentially inappropriate material. I read reviews at Common Sense Media and scour the internet looking for insight before I buy any books, but many of the newer popular books are hard to find. I feel like I do a good job of having a good mix of books that don’t protect our students from life but gives it to them in baby steps. South Central Suburban M
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was challenged by a Middle School parent who claimed that date rape was not a subject that her daughter should be reading about. As a noted author and a book that was tastefully and not sensationally written, I was able to prevail in keeping the book in our collection. However, as a parent I did tell the challenger that she had a right to review any book(s) that her daughter brought home and not allow her to read those she felt were inappropriate. Northeast Suburban H
Thankfully, I have never experienced a book challenge. The parents in our school are just grateful that their students read. We don’t go over the top on controversial fiction and read reviews in SLJ before purchasing anything. Northeast Suburban H
The age of technology has allowed parents to respond to controversial content more quickly (for instance, via email), perhaps in a “knee-jerk” reaction before really considering it more fully. South Central Suburban MH
The book challenge was initiated by a vice principal who was not aware of the policy, and decided not to go forward with the challenge once I informed him of the policy. Northeast Suburban H
The book in question was purchased years before I became the school librarian. It was outdated and few recent checkouts. After speaking with the parents, I removed it from the collection since I determined that I would have weeded it out of the collection anyway. Midwest Suburban E
The book that was challenged appeared on a teacher list for independent reading novel choices. Although it was not required reading, the parent felt that given the content of the book, it should not be “recommended reading.” The challenge was more to get it off the list that to get it off the shelf. Mountain Suburban H
The book The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson was challenged at a school I taught at (now no longer teach at). The book was challenged by a student’s legal guardian who suggested I create a rated-R section of the library when I met with her. The principal met with both of us and told the guardian that the book would not be taken out of the collection and that she was welcome to take the challenge to the school board. Nothing more happened after that meeting, and the book went back on the shelves. Pacific Urban H
The book was selected prior to me being a librarian on campus. It had great reviews, and an absolutely wonderful story. The objection was sex, violence, language, and suicide. At that time I had 6th grade on campus. In a committee including a parent, a teacher from each grade level, the principal, and myself, the decision was made that the book was more appropriate for Junior High. Ironically, it was a 4th grade teacher and myself that fought for the overall story of the book. It is my opinion, although all involved were required to read the entire the book, that they paid too much attention to the specific parts mentioned, because that was the focus of their discussion. Sixth grade is now on the Junior High campus and I now teach all my students how to select books appropriate for them and their family guidelines and what to do if they think a book is inappropriate for them…return it and get another, because that book IS appropriate for someone else. South Central Suburban E
The challenge occurred before I was a librarian, when I was a middle school English teacher. The parent objected to the subject matter of a book I had chosen to use as a group read. I was able to find an alternative acceptable to both of us. I have not been challenged in my career as a high school librarian. Even though I work in a religious school, parents and administration seem to trust my judgment in choosing materials. Midwest Suburban H
The challenge occurred years ago, and immediately my principal asked for the book to be removed. It took almost as much time and effort with the parent as with my administration to look more closely at the book in question and reach a reasonable decision. We ended up not removing the book, although it was pulled from the collection during this time. Pacific Suburban M
The challenge was a classroom assigned novel by a local author. The student was given an alternate assignment and the challenge was denied. The author did write a second version of his book that removed the small sex scene and he replaced our books for free (I think). They are still in our textbook room and may be used again next year for a remedial English IV class. Pacific Small Town H
The challenge was based on a picture of two adult males holding hands. The parent had not read the book in its entirety. Instead of going through the proper procedure, the superintendent decided to keep the book in her office and said to me “We’re trying to pass a bond, so I’m going to keep this until it has passed.” Midwest Urban E
The challenge was for a book selected by a teacher for a class assignment. We were able to recommend an alternative title. South Atlantic Rural H
The closest to a book challenge that I experienced was being contacted by the building principal to find out if we had a copy of “Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks a Lot”. It was causing a controversy in the area and they (District Superintendent) were checking to see if we had the book on the shelf and, if we did, to pull it. We did not have a copy. Thankfully, I did not have to push the censorship issue (this time). We currently have a pretty lenient policy regarding books that are allowed on our shelves. Midwest Suburban H
The English department had a challenge to summer reading book, but i have not had a full challenge in the Media Center. I had a parent complain about a book, which I said I would read to see for myself, and she did not follow up. Midwest Small Town H
The first challenge I experienced forced our administration (at the time they all valued libraries) to create a more specific reconsideration policy. The title went to a diverse committee who read the book and reconvened to discuss our options. The decision was made to keep the book but get parental approval in the form of a signature before allowing students to check out the book. This past school year the reconsideration policy was completely ignored when a district office staff member (bookkeeper) didn’t like titles on one of my orders and brought it to the attention of the curriculum director. She removed the books from our collection, without discussing it with me, and the rest of the school year I was bullied and harassed by my building administration because I questioned the whole situation’s legitimacy. Now I am very careful about what I purchase and the titles of books because I cannot survive the bullying I went through last year again and/or retain my position . Midwest Suburban M
The main book challenge I faced was from my library administrator who is very sensitive to foul language. She refused to let me purchase a book students had recommended. She didn’t agree with me that secondary school students can choose their own comfort level when it comes to choosing their own reading material. Canada Suburban EMH
The only book challenge had to do with the Stephan King series. It was the year 1991 when our junior high turned into a middle school. One parent objected to any Stephan King book available to sixth grade. When parent was asked which King book she objected to and if she had read the book, she did not pursue the challenge further. Northeast Suburban M
The only book challenge I experienced was initiated by a teacher. She took the challenge to the Principal, who said the book stays in the library. End of challenge. South Atlantic Suburban EM
The only challenge I receive on a regular basis is from the kids! They often tell me that the books on the human body are inappropriate because they show “nudity”. I usually reply that everyone has a body and they need to learn how it works, and that it is no big deal. Then they giggle and repeat the following week… Northeast Suburban E
The parent was very concerned about the Gossip Girl series. My principal just told me to pull them from the shelf and not offer them anymore. I did not purchase them; the former media specialist did. To me, parents should just say to the child just don’t read those. South Atlantic Small Town M
The parent was very, very conservative and since both parents were not on the same page of being aware of haven giving consent for borrowing from YA section (it may have been a case of a forged signature by the student). Parent kept repeating that “educators and especially librarians are too liberal and ruining our society with our introduction of leftists doctrine” throughout our conversation, as he became more confrontational the principal wrapped up the meeting as it was obvious the book was just serving as a platform to present his narrow views and agenda and not about challenging the book. He rescinded the YA consent for his child who was a 6th grader but still loudly vocalized his opinion that the book did not belong in any collection. Northeast Suburban EM
The recent book challenge I had encountered was from the book entitled Drama. The parent did not appreciate the tone of the book which mentioned the gender of being gay. I was told to remove the book from the elementary school and that it may be placed in the middle school was what the administrators directed me to do. I was then questioned how book selection was decided. Northeast Suburban E
The student questioned a right-leaning college information book. Because the title could be interpreted as meaning “correct” rather than political-right, we added a sticker so that it was clear that it was politically leaning rather than “correct”. I refused to remove the book because it was helpful for some of our students who would like the information in choosing a college, but the title could be misleading, so I clarified it. We have many other “controversial” books here, and I’m happy about that. Luckily, so is the administration and the general population of the town. Northeast Small Town H
The teacher backed down when I informed her there was a process I was going to make her go through. Her objection was to one picture in an award winning, reviewed graphic novel, where there is the impression a man is naked. I pointed out to both the teacher and the principal that my high school is an Allied Health Academy and there are numerous teaching aids of fully naked men and women through out the building, so a blurred out region in one picture in a graphic novel would not “traumatize” our students. Northeast Suburban H
The teacher felt that the book was inappropriate due to sexual content. I discussed his concerns with him and the Dept. Chair and it was decided to keep the book on the shelf. Northeast Suburban H
There are very involved parents in this school. They often meet in the library, have functions here, etc. I am sometimes asked about books people question because of the pictures on the cover. Northeast Urban MH
There was a challenge by a parent of, Rumble Fish by S. E. Hinton. We had just established a review procedure for such a challenge and followed it to the letter. It turns out the parent who filed the challenge could not possibly have read the entire book. We continued with the procedure which resulted in the retention of the title. The parent’s son later checked out the book and read it in school in spite of the parents disapproval. After this challenge, staff also wanted to read, The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton and selected it for the summer reading list for our 8th Grade students. South Atlantic Suburban EM
This is my third year as a librarian, following 23 years in the high school English classroom. We have had an incident where an administrator has told me that a particular student is not allowed to checkout a particular title per parent request and another incident where a student was reading the “bad parts” aloud to class mates and the administrator disciplined the student. We do have the YA limiter for mature content, but we also have the rare opportunity to have the public library attached to our library. Kids have access there if their parents want them to have access. I stress to students that any book could be offensive to someone, that in fact the greatest books in literature have been among the most controversial. I also encourage students to talk to their parents about what is acceptable in their own household. Midwest Suburban MH
This one summer was challenged in my school by a parent who let her daughter read John Green books! I truly believe it was partly due to the fact that it is a graphic novel. She complained about the inappropriate content, and included miscarriage in that definition. I immediately got in touch with the CBLDF, the publisher, had other teachers in the building read the book to get their opinion, and went online to get as much support and information about the book as possible. Midwest Suburban M
This past year our school has seen an increase in drug use. Due to that fact, I have opted not to purchase a graphic novel that incorporates magic mushrooms as a part of the plot. Violence, vulgar language, and sex do not stop me from purchasing a title if I think my students would be interested. Northeast Small Town H
Two challenges that never went beyond a discussion with the parent and an administrator. Northeast Suburban E
Two different challenges to two different books. Both challenges resulted in the school removing the book even though the Policy on Challenging Books was not followed as it should have been .This was done to satisfy the parent and avoid any further confrontation. That was an administrative decision, not a decision made by the librarian. Northeast Rural MH
We are a high school library and provide information for ALL students. Northeast Suburban H
We are a small community with a strong Church of Christ base so we are conservative around here. My challenge was in the elementary school over the language in a book, and it was over words like God, hell, and damn. The parent damaged the book so it was removed. It may have been “The Great Gilly Hopkins”, but I’m not sure. It was years ago when I was an elementary librarian. I think we got another copy or already had one. I tried to tell the kids that if they didn’t like something about a book (or their parents didn’t, then just bring them back and get a different one). It was kind of an odd situation, and I wonder if the parent was just in a bad mood the day she saw it. South Central Small Town H
We had a parent challenge 13 Reasons Why being appropriate for 8th grade book club. The parent was angry, quoted passages (out of context of course), and copied my supt. and principal on the heated email. I sent the parent the list of all the awards the book had won as well as the links to reviewing agencies that said the book was appropriate for this grade level. The parent removed his children from book club, but didn’t pursue the challenge any further. Midwest Small Town M
We have had a freshman teacher and student question a few titles, but they have not ever formally submitted a complaint. Usually when I explain that I must purchase for a wide interest of students, and some of our students read adult authors like Gresham, Sparks, & Brown. When they learn that there is a selection process and not all best sellers are entered into our collection Therefore, if they are concern with explicit content, ask and I can guide them to authors that are more to their liking. Pacific Suburban H
We have not had official challenges, but we have had an open (and generally respectful) dialogue about books for middle school readers. Northeast Suburban EM
We organize a banned book week yearly to make our students aware that there is such a thing in other parts of the country or the world. Pacific Suburban M
We recently had a book challenged due to some racial content and some other things. Fortunately, the committee decided to keep the book on the shelf but every time that book gets checked out now I look at who is checking it out and weigh in my mind whether or not I think the parent will approve. South Atlantic Suburban E
We would have a quarterly book challenge. If the student met their reading goal (which the classroom teacher would monitor) they would be allowed to attend the quarterly reading goal celebration. Celebrations varied and included going on a school outing to the movie theater, bowling, roller skating ice cream social, or a school dance in the gym. Mountain Urban EM
When a parent challenged a book due to language, my administrator (Assistant Principal) handled the situation. South Central Urban E
When I have Library Orientation with our new 6th grade students, I tell them that our library has a very different collection from their former elementary school. Some books may not be appropriate for all students, and that they should follow their family values when they decide which books they choose to read. I also mention that sometimes waiting until you have a little more life experience will make a book even more enjoyable. Pacific Suburban M
When I started to work here in the Middle School Library, I was told there is a no restriction on books. There were books already in the library that had profanity, ect., Then a parent went to our principal and showed her a page in the book that had profanity. I was told to watch this carefully. I decided to make a teen section of the library. This makes it easy for me to view who is looking at these books and it is easy for me to know who is checking these books out. When the student checks out these books, I request a parental note. This is a general note stating that the student can check out young adult books. This has been working for the most part. some notes have come in as colorful as the books. (too descriptive). Having a note from the parent, makes me feel better. One more thing, in general I don’t let my sixth graders check out these books, but if they bring me a note from parents. I let them. Also, when I receive a note, I call the parent to make sure the note came from the parent. * This was an excellent question. I must say that when ordering books, there is not enough information on content. like profanity ect. Although I worry about the content, the subject matter is what the students like and read. The students lives way more each day, then the content they read. Thanks again Middle School Librarian Pacific Rural M
When I was a public librarian the first day on the job a parent asked me not purchase the book, “Walter the Farting Dog” because he felt his kids said that word enough already and did not need a book that used the word too. Northeast Rural EM
When I was at an elementary school, a parent had an issue with a book. My stance was okay, you can say you don’t want your child to read it, but you can’t make that choice for someone else’s child. It ended there. Where I am now the former middle school librarian had a challenge which she should have due to the fact that she purchased books without reading them or reviewing them and it was totally inappropriate for 7th and 8th graders. The principal called her in and pulled the book and it went from there. South Central Small Town MH
When I was first hired here, my principal said to use my best judgement. I am very conservative, and the first thing I got rid of was the Twilight series. Pacific Suburban M
When I was new (and not yet finished my coursework or certified) I had a parent who wanted to challenge a book. We did not have a formal challenge procedure in place. The HS librarian and I created a form based ours on the ALA recommended form and gave it to administration in case the parent chose to pursue a formal challenge. I talked him out of it with the help of his wife, who agreed that the book was appropriate for a middle school library. His daughter was in sixth grade, and he felt a book that even discussed losing virginity was inappropriate despite the fact the character was a virgin and made very positive points about staying that way. He did acknowledge that this book may not be inappropriate for an eighth grader and that the library served all the students in the building. Northeast Small Town M
When I was teaching elementary, I had a parent challenge my library on a Greek mythology book about Cronus that her son had checked out. She didn’t like it because Cronus ate his own sons. I told her I would preclude her son from checking out that particular series but I would not remove the series from my collection. Midwest Suburban H
When parents begin to talk about limiting a book I ask them to read the entire book and come talk to me. Usually when they have read the full book they no longer see an issue. In past years at a school I taught (Catholic K-8), I encouraged the parent to read the book their middle school student was reading and talk about it, so that their family’s beliefs and perspectives could be shared. South Atlantic Suburban E
While at the middle school, my principal told me to remove Playground by 50 Cent. The other media specialists and I took the challenge to our assistant superintendent. The book was eventually returned to the shelves, but the challenge was never directly dealt with. Midwest Urban H
While not a formal challenge, I received pressure to remove a book that dealt with kids who have a parent in jail or prison. The pressure came from the principal and the school counselor (apparently, the book was passed around when the order came in and before the book even got to the library). They were concerned that children in the school might actually be in that situation and having the book in our collection would either add to the stigma or condone the situation (of having a parent who is incarcerated). They wanted to keep it in the counselor’s office for the counselor to decide whether it would be appropriate for certain students. As soon as I got out the paperwork for filing a challenge, they backed off, but I think it colored their perception of me after that. This was an elementary school. Mountain Suburban M

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Comments

  1. Marcia Brandt says:

    I had a complaint, once, about Jane Yolan’s “Devil’s Arithmetic”. The parent thought we shouldn’t have books on the occult. ( I assume the SLJ audience knows the book is about WW II and the Auschwitz number tattoos on prisoners.) The parent was quite embarrassed when faced with the reality.

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