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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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Worlds of Words Center Launches First Crowdfund Effort to Bring Global Stories to Life

By Rebecca Ballenger, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

The Worlds of Words Center of Global Literacies and Literatures in the University of Arizona College of Education announces the launch of its first ever crowdfunding campaign on October 2. The campaign aims to raise $10,000 to fund a year of exhibits that will spark the imaginations of visitors to the center.

Young teens reading and discussing the books and posters on display.

Students from Paulo Freire Freedom School explore the exhibit, Around the World in 70 Maps.

“We are excited to launch our first crowdfunding campaign,” says UArizona Regents Professor and director of the WOW Center, Kathy Short. “This is a great opportunity to support our mission of sharing global stories. With help from the community, we can continue to provide enriching exhibits that inspire people of all ages.” 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

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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

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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

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2023 Trends in Global Youth Literature

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

A young boy lays in his grandmother's lap, her blue sari covering him. A cat sleeps on the end of the sari.The trends in global literature published and/or distributed in the U.S. between Summer 2022 and Summer 2023 are the focus of this month’s WOW Currents. These trends were identified by examining new books published during this time period and consulting book reviews to search for books of most interest to K-12 educators. This column provides an overview of the trends from these recent books; two additional blogs this month take on one of these trends in more depth. Continue reading

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Journeys: Shared and Forced

by Seemi Aziz-Raina, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Sejal, her mother, and grandmother hold hands.As summer looms many of us think about travel, whether for pleasure or for work, and suddenly the long hot summer seems approachable and accessible. While travel can be exciting and relaxing, journeys and travel don’t always bode well for many. The world that we live in is changing at a very rapid pace due to global discord and accessibility, where news and world events impact us all. This month I look at journeys that are shared and/or forced within recent picturebooks. To do this, the focus will be on the following powerful exemplars while I share other intertextual examples that reinforce the same thematic threads. Continue reading