Reading & Literacy

If You Ban Them, Readers Will Come

February 09, 2009 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

There is a fairly regular stream of stories in the news about schools and districts tackling requests to ban or restrict students’ access to books that a parent or community member finds offensive or inappropriate. I wrote about one case in Fayetteville, Ark., that sparked heated debate over dozens of books, including classics and young adult literature.

Banning books seems to have become a time-honored tradition in some places, and challenges happen so frequently that the American Library Association began commemorating the fight against unreasonable censorship in schools more than 25 years ago with Banned Books Week.

The latest effort in the news is in Stanislaus County, Calif., where the Newman Crows Landing Unified School District voted this month to remove Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima from the reading list for high school sophomores. The superintendent of the district outside San Francisco argued that the vulgar language in the critically acclaimed book—which has earned recommendations from former first lady Laura Bush and the National Endowment for the Arts—offended him.

This Los Angeles Times editorial, however, suggests there were broader issues of religious sensitivity. When school officials start to make such decisions based on complaints from particular interest groups, it can be a slippery slope in which academic considerations are undermined by the demands of vocal outsiders.

What usually results is greater interest in the books deemed inappropriate, as the editorial notes.

“Ever since school officials took aim at Bless Me, Ultima, the local library has been doing a fire-sale business lending it out,” it states. “Young people who are told it won’t be assigned in the classroom, where a teacher presumably would offer some guidance, instead are reading it on their own and delighting in precisely what offends their elders.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Creating Confident Readers: Why Differentiated Instruction is Equitable Instruction
Join us as we break down how differentiated instruction can advance your school’s literacy and equity goals.
Content provided by Lexia Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy The Key Parts of a 'Science of Reading' Transformation, According to One State Chief
Under Carey Wright's leadership, Mississippi pulled off a reading "miracle." She has a similar transformation in mind for Maryland.
6 min read
Dr. Carey Wright, the interim state superintendent for Maryland, discusses improving literacy instruction and achievement with Stephen Sawchuk, an assistant managing editor for Education Week, during the 2024 Leadership Symposium in Arlington, Va. on Friday, May 3, 2024.
Carey Wright, the state superintendent for Maryland, discusses improving literacy instruction and achievement during Education Week's Leadership Symposium in Arlington, Va., on May 3, 2024.
Sam Mallon/Education Week
Reading & Literacy Teachers Are Still Teaching Older Students Basic Reading Skills, Survey Finds
Who across the K-12 spectrum engages frequently in activities that promote foundational reading skills? The answer may come as a surprise.
4 min read
Group of kids reading while sitting on the floor in the library
Zinkevych/iStock/Getty
Reading & Literacy Spotlight Spotlight on The Science of Reading in Practice
This Spotlight will help you analyze new curricula designed to build knowledge, review the benefits of reading aloud to students, and more.
Reading & Literacy Opinion Readers Can Struggle at Any Age. Here's How Teachers Can Help
Struggling readers may be able to read the words but fail to make the necessary connections between ideas and their meaning.
8 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty