What is "book banning"?

As we wind down Banned Books Week and begin to gather ourselves for the next legislative session, it seems that things are not always what they appear to be.  When we talk about "book banning", there are big visuals of books publicly being taken off the shelves among much fanfare and even destroyed in a very Fahrenheit 451 manner.  Sadly enough, "book banning" is far more covert and insidious than that.  

  • "Book banning" is removing books from library shelves when no one is looking, it is placing them behind the counter and requiring an "opt in" not from parents to access them.
  • "Book banning" is removing books without due process or through legitimate, transparent, and public review.  
  • "Book banning" is allowing a few loud voices to decide what is appropriate or okay for the rest of us.
  • "Book banning" is retaliation (or fear of retaliation) against teachers or librarians who have diverse books in their classrooms or libraries and so these books are quietly put away.
  • "Book banning" is an act of cowardice because it circumvents real, meaningful conversation about books and stories and WHOSE stories get to be told or recognized. 


Rather than addressing issues that may potentially offend, those few people pushing for book bans (and PEN AMERICA states that it is a very small number of people actually pursuing them) are making book decisions for the rest of us. Rather than choosing not to read or check out a book, people pushing for book bans want those stories to be removed for everyone.  Just because someone can purchase a book does not mean that it is not banned.  The only access that many people, young people in particular, have to books is through their own classroom, school, or public libraries.  

We have recently seen this move into the publishing world.  Recent guest author at our store Maggie Tokuda-Hall has experienced the first hand. Earlier this year, her picture book Love in the Library, a love story set during World War II in a Japanese American Internment camp, was picked up by Scholastic.  However, Scholastic had a few stipulations.  

The publisher's only suggested edit was to the author's note: Scholastic had crossed out a key section that references "the deeply American tradition of racism" to describe the tale's real-life historical backdrop — a time when the U.S. government forcibly relocated more than 120,000 Japanese Americans to dozens of internment sites from 1942-1945.

Two days after the author spoke out against this, Scholastic apologized.  

And yet again, Scholastic finds itself in the limelight for its recent policy for its well-known Scholastic Book Fairs.  In response to state and local legislative moves towards "book banning", Scholastic has chosen to make its "Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice" collection optional, requiring that schools opt in or out of including these stores in their elementary book fairs. Critics have pointed out that many of the books in the Share Every Story collection are not controversial. The list is included below.

As we move forward and read forward, it is important that we become aware to the nuances of "book banning".  Look at your own local school district policies.  Follow up with your public libraries.  Check with teachers and librarians at your local schools.  The pressure is real. The pressure is there. And the time is now that we speak up so that everyone's stories are readily available, that everyone has the chance to see themselves in books, and that everyone has the freedom to read. 

Here is a list of the books included in Scholastic's "Share Every Story" collection:

  • The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez
  • All Are Neighbors by Alexandra Penfold
  • All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
  • Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal
  • Alma’s Way: Junior’s Lost Tooth by Gabrielle Reyes
  • Battle Dragons: City of Speed by Alex London
  • Battle Dragons: City of Thieves by Alex London
  • Because of You, John Lewis by Andrea Davis Pinkney
  • Big Nate: Payback Time! by Lincoln Peirce
  • Blended by Sharon M. Draper
  • Booked (Graphic Novel) by Kwame Alexander
  • Change Sings by Amanda Gorman
  • City of Dragons: Rise of the Shadowfire by Jaimal Yogis
  • Dragon Prince Graphic Novel #2: Bloodmoon Huntress by Nicole Andelfinger
  • Dragon Prince Graphic Novel #3: Puzzle House by Peter Wartman
  • Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros
  • Federico and the Wolf by Rebecca J. Gomez
  • Freestyle by Gale Galligan
  • The Girl in the Lake by India Hill Brown
  • The Girl With Big, Big Questions by Britney Winn Lee
  • Her Own Two Feet by Meredith Davis
  • Our World in Pictures, the History Book
  • Home for Meow: Kitten Around by Reese Eschmann
  • Hummingbird by Natalie Lloyd
  • I Am My Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams by Tanisia Moore
  • I Am Ruby Bridges by Ruby Bridges
  • I Color Myself Different by Colin Kaepernick
  • Into the Heartlands: A Black Panther Graphic Novel by Roseanne A. Brown
  • JoJo’s Sweet Adventures: The Great Candy Caper by JoJo Siwa
  • Justice Ketanji by Denise Lewis Patrick
  • Karma’s World: Daddy and Me and the Rhyme to Be by Halcyon Person
  • Karma’s World: The Great Shine-a-Thon Showcase! by Halcyon Person
  • The Loud House: No Bus, No Fuss by Shannon Penney
  • The Loud House: Old Friends, New Friends by Daniel Mauleon
  • Mabuhay! by Zachary Sterling
  • Miss Quinces by Kat Fajardo
  • Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
  • More Than Peach (Bellen Woodard Original Picture Book) by Bellen Woodard
  • Nuestra América by Sabrina Vourvoulias
  • Parachute Kids by Betty C. Tang
  • Pedro and the Shark by Fran Manushkin
  • Pets Rule: My Kingdom of Darkness by Susan Tan
  • Pets Rule: The Rise of the Goldfish by Susan Tan
  • Picture Day by Sarah Sax
  • Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
  • Refugee by Alan Gratz
  • Reina Ramos Works It Out by Emma Otheguy
  • Remarkably Ruby by Terri Libenson
  • Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac
  • The Secret Battle of Evan Pao by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
  • She Dared: Malala Yousafzai by Jenni L. Walsh
  • Speak Up! by Rebecca Burgess
  • Sports Heroes Lebron James
  • The Storyteller by Brandon Hobson
  • That Girl Lay Lay: It’s Time to #Slay by That Girl Lay Lay with Kwyn Bader
  • That Girl Lay Lay: Positive Vibes Only by Andrea Loney
  • Thunderous by M. L. Smoker
  • The Tryout by Christina Soontornvat
  • We Shall Overcome by Bryan Collier
  • When Clouds Touch Us by Thanhha Lai
  • Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez
  • Who Was the Greatest? by Gabriel Soria
  • You Are Enough by Margaret O’Hair
  • You Are Loved by Margaret O’Hair