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Pushing Back Against the Current Waves of Book Challenges and Banning

By Deanna Day, Washington State University, WA, and Barbara A. Ward, University of New Orleans, LA

Turtles swim around the title on a yellow background. Two of the turtles are not green, but rainbow colored.In this final blog post—our fourth on this topic—we discuss the current situation in states that seem to be leading the charge in challenging or banning children’s books. We also consider community members and libraries who are standing up and speaking out for the freedom to read.

States with Many Book Challenges

It’s not hard to see that there are great divisions in the world of book challenges and banning, and there are some unexpected consequences to the recent publicity surrounding increased book challenges. For instance, one town, Kalispell, Montana, won’t be celebrating Banned Book Week this year since the ImagineIF library trustees have determined that the event is too divisive. The Library Board members are concerned about the influence of the American Library Association on the annual event, thus choosing to forgo any involvement in the occasion. Banned Book Week, which celebrates the freedom to read, has been in existence since 1982. Continue reading

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What Do We Do?: Supporting Children’s Right To Read

By Deanna Day, Washington State University, WA, and Barbara A. Ward, University of New Orleans, LA

The silhouette of a young boy with short cropped curly hair. Red streaks go horizontally across the cover over the silhouette, resembling blood and the stripes in the United States flag.In this column we continue to explore recent trends in censorship and book banning by highlighting how authors feel about their books being challenged. Additionally, we offer some ideas for classroom teachers interested in supporting children’s rights to read by teaching about censorship and book banning.

It isn’t just teachers, librarians, and school board members who are put into the position of defending certain books. The recent attacks on books featuring certain types of stories have even had a chilling effect on the publishing industry, with some publishing houses shying away from topics that might be deemed controversial. Many authors of children’s and young adult books are finding themselves on the defensive because their books have drawn negative attention from parents and community members. Author Jason Reynolds, who has written a number of books that have been challenged such as Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You (2020), a remix of the adult title Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2016) by Ibram X. Kendi and All American Boys (2015), cowritten with Brendan Kiely, emphasizes that limiting access to books limits kids’ curiosity and that banning books sends the message that kids shouldn’t ask questions. “Books don’t brainwash. They represent ideas,” he said. Continue reading

Authors' Corner

Author’s Corner: Jonah Winter

By Charlene Klassen Endrizzi, Westminster College, PA

Jonha Winter posing next to a zebra statue.Jonah Winter is an award-winning author of more than 40 picture books who currently resides in Pennsylvania, a state in which more than 450 books were banned in 2022, including Winter’s biography, Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx (2009). Book-banning is in the news these days, and another book by Winter made the news in Spring 2023 when it was banned in Duval County, Florida–his biography, Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates (2002). Speaking of Florida (second only to Texas in book banning), Winter’s biography Hillary (2016) was banned from two schools in Miami where he was scheduled to visit on his book tour in 2016. At each school, the principals prevented him from presenting his book. Continue reading

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Selection VS Banning: Supporting Children’s Right To Read

By Deanna Day, Washington State University, WA, and Barbara A. Ward, University of New Orleans, LA

A man in a suit waves a large rainbow flag as he walks in front of a crowd.In this WOW column, we will continue to explore the complex issues surrounding book challenges by focusing on the differences between book selection and book censorship or banning. It’s helpful first to define some terms and provide some historical context before revisiting the responsibilities of educators and sharing four picture books that have been challenged by parents in the past. Continue reading

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Supporting Children’s Rights to Read

By Deanna Day, Washington State University, and Barbara A. Ward, University of New Orleans

A trans girl peers through the letter A in the name MelissaAs books in libraries and parts of school curriculum suddenly become hot button topics, it seems important to address censorship and book banning. The next four columns of WOW Currents will seek to make sense of this complicated, increasingly controversial issue. The first week we will discuss supporting children’s rights to read and intellectual freedom. The following week we will advocate for selecting books carefully versus banning or “stealth censorship.” In the third week’s column we will share suggestions and ideas for teachers in supporting the rights of youngsters to read. The fourth week we conclude our exploration of this important literacy issue by looking at how some communities have begun pushing back against the current waves of book challenges and banning. Continue reading

WOW Dozen: Nonfiction Adaptations for Young Readers

By Celeste Trimble, Saint Martin’s University

Adult nonfiction titles adapted for young readers are excellent for engaging secondary and even undergraduate students in vital contemporary issues and conversations. This WOW Dozen highlights newer titles that make essential books written for adults accessible to younger readers. Many adaptations include contextual information that is not included in the original version because of assumed prior knowledge. Also, by using more familiar vocabulary or defining unfamiliar language, and other strategies for increasing accessibility, young readers are invited into the essential understandings and concepts from popular adult nonfiction, encouraging intergenerational community dialogue. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Corner

A crow stands on a ladder in the corner of a concrete room, holding chalk.Corner is a whimsical, almost wordless picture book by Korean author and illustrator, ZO-O.

The story is about a crow who makes a cramped corner into a space for living and loving – a home. The crow starts a new life in an empty corner. After a while, the crow begins to gather objects: a bed, a bookshelf, a rug. A shelf appears with books and a lamp to read by. Lastly, the crow brings a small plant to complete the corner. The plant flourishes with the crow’s loving care. Continue reading

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2023 Trends in Global Literature: Climate Change and the Environment

By Kathy G. Short, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

A young boy holds Earth in his hands.Global news reports are constantly documenting increasing temperatures, extreme weather, and natural disasters from around the world. The 2023 K-12 global recommended book lists indicate an increase in books on climate change, endangered animals, and conservation of the environment. The books are set in different parts of the world and depict both the problems and possible responses. Continue reading

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2023 Trends in Global Literature: Books Set in African Countries

By Kathy G. Short, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Three young African girls stand facing the viewing waering modern, fashionable clothing while a fourth girl is closer to the view, smiling as she wears more traditional clothing. One continuing trend in K-12 global literature in the U.S. is the dominance of books set in English-speaking countries, especially the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The more exciting trend is the diversification of global communities that challenge this dominance. Over the last several years, there has been an explosion of books set in India and other South Asian countries or featuring characters whose heritage is South Asian. In 2023, there were noticeably more books set in African countries or traditions, although West Africa, especially Nigeria and Ghana, dominate. As with the South Asian books, the majority are written by authors whose heritage is Nigerian or Ghanian and who currently live in the U.S. or the U.K. Continue reading

WOW Dozen: Language Learning and Communication

By Janine Schall, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, TX

Over half the world’s population speaks more than one language. While many people naturally become multilingual by growing up in multilingual communities, others deliberately learn a second or third language later in life. People learn new languages for many reasons, including to maintain connections to heritage and family, in order to navigate a new country, and to communicate with new friends and communities. Sometimes people even invent their own ways to communicate! In this collection of picturebooks, we find a dozen different examples of people learning a new language or finding a way to communicate. Continue reading