Reading & Literacy Reports

Recent Book Ban Controversies: A National Survey of School Library Personnel

May 2023

Parents and guardians are uniquely positioned to help their children succeed in school. When it comes to the educational interests and needs of an individual child, it is difficult to think of anyone who is a stronger advocate than a parent.

But what happens when a parent’s views of that individual child’s interests and needs conflict with the school’s view of the interests and needs of children writ large? Or with the interests and needs of other individual families or students? Or on educational approaches supported by research or professional expertise?

As the so-called culture wars have returned with a vengeance to K-12 education, these questions have increasingly arisen in the form of conflicts over the curriculum and books that students should be exposed to at school.

These conflicts have led to challenges to books in school libraries, as parents working to safeguard what they view as the best interests of their own children clash with educators and fellow parents on what is best for all children.

To learn more about this topic, the EdWeek Research Center conducted a nationally representative survey of K-12 school library personnel between April 25th and 26th of 2023.

The results indicate that, while most respondents (57 percent) reported that the number of formal and informal book challenges in their districts and schools has remained the same since 2019-20, a sizeable minority (41 percent) said that such challenges are more common today than they were three years ago.

This report highlights findings from the survey.

Coverage of strategies for advancing the opportunities for students most in need, including those from low-income families and communities, is supported by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation, at Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.