In 2017, CBLDF was busy battling book challenges, unconstitutional legislation, and more in defense of the freedom to read. As we wrap up a busy year defending the right to read, here’s a rundown of some of the books we’ve helped defend.
Bone by Jeff Smith
Location of challenge: Undisclosed
Jeff Smith’s Bone was challenged at an undisclosed elementary school library for being unsuited to the age group. CBLDF provided library staff with materials to support the defense of the book, which was ultimately retained.
Stuck in the Middle, edited by Ariel Schrag
Location of challenge: Del Crest Middle School, Oklahoma
An Oklahoma middle school pulled the comic anthology Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an Unpleasant Age off of shelves after one parent called it “trash” and complained of vulgarities, sexual references, and drug use in some of the stories. The school claimed that a review committee was formed, but board meetings reveal no further discussion of the book. A search of the district’s library catalog shows that the book is no longer part of the collection.
- EXCLUSIVE: Ariel Schrag on Stuck in the Middle Challenge
- CBLDF Leads Defense of Stuck in the Middle
- Stuck in the Middle Challenged in Oklahoma School
Sword Art Online: Aincrad by Reki Kawahara and abec
Location of challenge: Jerome, Idaho
CBLDF took the lead in defending the manga volume Sword Art Online 1: Aincrad after it was challenged at a middle school in Jerome, Idaho. A review committee unanimously voted to recommend that the book remain in the Jerome Middle School library.
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Locations of challenges:
- Alton, Illinois
- Thousand Oaks, California
- Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin
- New London-Spicer Schools, Minnesota
The use of Part-Time Indian at Sauk Prairie High School in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, was questioned during a school board meeting for what one parent called “shocking words of profanity, sexual innuendo and violence.” Another parent quoted out-of-context passages as evidence of the novels unsuitability for classrooms. Another parent argued that she’s not an advocate of banning books, “but I cannot believe in the history of the written word that there is not a more appropriate, more suitable, more acceptable book than this one.” The complaint triggered a contentious review of the novel.
A pair of parents of New London-Spicer Schools 8th graders challenged the acclaimed novel, citing “gratuitous and unnecessary” profanity and reference to sexual acts as reasons for offense. Despite being offered an alternate assignment for their children per school policy, the complainants argue that their children are being punished and that the book should instead be removed from the curriculum.
CBLDF signed on to a letter from NCAC’s Kids’ Right to Read Project, urging the Conejo Valley Unified School District in Thousand Oaks, California, to expedite the approval process for Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian to be used in the 9th grade curriculum. The process has stalled after one school board member objected to language and sexual references used in the book.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was restored to the 10th grade curriculum at Alton High School in Alton, Illinois. The book was temporarily suspended pending a review committee decision, after one parent simply requested an alternate assignment for their own child.
- Victory in IL: Absolutely True DiaryRetained in 10th Grade Curriculum
- CBLDF Joins Defense of Absolutely True Diary in Illinois School District
- VICTORY in California: Conejo Valley Board Finally Approves Part-Time Indian
- CBLDF Joins Effort to Unblock Approval of Part-Time Indian in California School District
- Conejo Valley Board Leaves Part-Time Indian in Limbo for Upcoming School Year
- VICTORY in Wisconsin: Board Unanimously Supports Part-Time Indian
- Wisconsin School Board Withholds Result of Secret Vote on Part-Time Indian
- VICTORY: WI Superintendent Stands By The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
- CBLDF Signs on to Defend Part-Time Indian in Wisconsin School District
- Wisconsinites Pack Board Meeting for Debate Over Absolutely True Diary
- Part-Time Indian Survives Wisconsin Challenge
- VICTORY: Minnesota School Board Stands by Alexie Book
- Minnesota Principal Defends Absolutely True Diary from Challenge
- Alexie Challenged Again, This Time in Minnesota
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Stone
Location of challenge: Cody, Wyoming
In early November, a parent complained about sexual content in Tanya Stone’s A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, demanding its removal from the school library in Cody High School.
BUCK: A Memoir by MK Asante
Location of challenge: Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore County School District has caved to pressure from parents and removed MK Asante’s award winning memoir Buck from the curriculum at Digital Harbor High School. Parents claimed profanity, as well as graphically described sexual acts, were the reasons Buck was inappropriate for 9th graders. Out of a 272-page book, parents complaints mostly centered around one out-of-context chapter that was set in a strip club.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Locations of challenges:
- Yamhill-Carlton School District, Oregon
- Vinton County High School, Ohio
CBLDF joined the Kids’ Right to Read Project to send a letter protesting the removal of Rainbow Rowell’s novel Eleanor & Park from the eighth grade curriculum in the Yamhill-Carlton School District in Oregon. The school board ignored its challenge policy when it voted to ban the book in January, but later backtracked and agreed to form a review committee as the policy requires.
CBLDF also joined the Kids’ Right to Read Project in defending Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, which has been removed from classrooms in Vinton County High School in Ohio.
- CBLDF Joins Defense of Eleanor & Park
- CBLDF Joins Coalition Urging Return of Eleanor & Park to Oregon School District
- Oregon School Board Reconsiders Hasty Ban of Eleanor & Park
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Location of challenge: Marshfield, Wisconsin
A parent in Marshfield, Wisconsin filed a challenge to Jeannette Walls’ memoir The Glass Castle, saying that high school students “deserve better” than a book he describes as “full of foul language, and explicit and disturbing materials.”
- VICTORY in Wisconsin: The Glass Castle Remains in High School Curriculum
- CBLDF Joins Defense of The Glass Castle
- Wisconsin Parent Wants The Glass Castle Out of Curriculum
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Location of challenge: Katy, Texas
School officials in Katy, Texas, banned the critically acclaimed YA novel The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas without following district challenge policy, according to a student who posted about the incident on Twitter. Katy Independent School District Superintendent Lance Hindt reportedly ordered the book pulled from shelves in mid-November after some parents complained about “inappropriate language.”
- NCAC Tells Texas School District to Reverse Ban on The Hate U Give
- The Hate U Give Reportedly Banned in Texas School District
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Location of challenge: Rocklin, California
A public charter school in Rocklin, California is defending a kindergarten teacher’s choice to read the picture books I Am Jazz and Red: A Crayon’s Story out loud to her students in order to help them understand a classmate’s gender transition.
- NCAC Praises CA School for Upholding Right to Read
- California School District Reaffirms Support for Teacher Who Read Transgender Books
- California Parents Protest Kindergarten Read-Aloud of Transgender Books
Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman
Location of challenge: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, North Carolina
CBLDF joined a Kids’ Right to Read Project-led coalition to protest the removal of Sarah and Ian Hoffman’s Jacob’s New Dress from a first grade anti-bullying program in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, North Carolina.
- CBLDF Joins Defense of Jacob’s New Dress
- NC School District Pulls Jacob’s New Dress from Curriculum After Legislator Complaints
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Location of challenge: Gilbert, Arizona
CBLDF this week joined a coalition of free-speech organizations objecting to the abrupt removal of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner from the curriculum of Higley Unified School District in Gilbert, Arizona. Although students in Honors English 10 have read the book for several years, administrators allege that it was never officially approved for use.
- CBLDF Joins Defense of The Kite Runner in Arizona
- Arizona School District Pulls Kite Runner from Curriculum Mid-School Year
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Location of challenge: Stone Lakes Elementary, Florida
After a Florida elementary school pre-emptively banned students from bringing personal copies of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why onto campus, CBLDF yesterday joined with other members of NCAC’s Kids’ Right to Read Project in urging principal Bryan Dolfi to reconsider.
- Kentucky School District Pulls Thirteen Reasons Why from Middle School Curriculum
- Thirteen Reasons Why Author Cites Reader Experiences to Fight Censorship
- CBLDF Joins Defense of Thirteen Reasons Why in Florida School
- ALA Director Condemns Recent Rash of Attacks on Thirteen Reasons Why
- Thirteen Reasons Why TV Series Leads to Sudden Scrutiny of Popular Novel
This Day in June by Gayle Pitman
Location of challenge: West Chicago, Illinois
The public library board in West Chicago, Illinois voted 6-1 to retain the LGBTQIA-themed children’s picture book This Day in June by Gayle Pitman in the children’s section. A West Chicago couple had challenged the book, implying that it promoted “GLBT and sex bondage” to young readers.
- CBLDF Joins Letter Thanking West Chicago Library for Defense of This Day in June
- West Chicago Library Board Votes to Retain This Day in June
- TONIGHT: West Chicago Library Board Considers Challenge to This Day in June
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Location of challenge: Biloxi, Mississippi
Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird was removed from the 8th grade curriculum in Biloxi, Mississippi. A Biloxi school board member claimed that it was “an administrative and department decision.” According to an anonymous source, the book was removed mid-lesson, after students had already started the reading. After a national outcry over the removal, the book was returned to classrooms — with caveats. Whereas the reading assignment previously was “opt-out” such that any student or parent could request an alternate book, it has now become “opt-in,” which means only students who return a signed parental permission slip will be allowed to read it for class.
- Mockingbird Returns to Class in Biloxi–With Strings Attached
- To Kill a Mockingbird Pulled From Curriculum
To find out more about what CBLDF did to defend comics and the right to read in 2017, check out our annual report here.