Forest Hills Connection is taking a break this week, with the help of talented fourth and fifth grade student reporters from Murch Elementary. With permission, we’re republishing some of the work from the tenth anniversary edition of the Blue and Gold, the student newspaper established in 2013.
by Thomas McCormack
Murch Blue and Gold staff
The number of books that have been banned or challenged in parts of the United States has skyrocketed in recent years — and your favorite books might be among them. Books that have been banned include such award-winning favorites as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
Many famous books for children are on lists of banned books compiled by the nonprofit
American Library Association (ALA), an organization of more than 50,000 members, mostly librarians. And in 2022, that organization reported “the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago.”
Yet no book has ever been banned in the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), according to Murch librarian Rebecca Burton. She said she obtained that information from Kevin Washburn, the director of library programs for DC public schools.
In fact, many of the books banned or challenged elsewhere as unfit for children are available
on the shelves of the Murch Library. [See a list below, and read student reviews of four of those books in the Blue and Gold.]
Ms. Burton said she opposes the banning of books because it “restricts the number of books that children can experience.”
A recent report, titled “Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools,” concluded that there has been a dramatic increase in book censorship in schools. The report came from PEN America, an organization of more than 7,500 writers, editors, publishers, translators and agents who support freedom of expression. The PEN America report found 2,532 instances of bans or restrictions affecting 1,648 books by 1,261 different authors at all school levels from July 2021 to June 2022.
The report identified race and gender issues as the leading reasons for the fast-growing campaigns to remove books from libraries. The researchers identified Moms for Liberty among “at least 50 groups involved in pushing for book bans at the national, state or local levels.”
Several news outlets reported that Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania led all states in book-banning efforts. In a large Texas school district, a new rule allows parents 30 days to review book titles before a school decides to buy them. As a result, librarians ordered thousands of books less this school year than they had in the previous year.
In all, at least 10 states have passed laws giving parents more power to limit student access to books.
The censorship drive also is affecting social studies classrooms. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, now running for the Republican nomination for president in 2024, has attacked textbooks that draw attention to race or gender.
Florida passed a law last year that forbids the teaching of information that could make white students feel guilty for what other members of their race did in the past. For example, some Florida school districts are trying to stop teachers from using the diaries of Christopher Columbus, who wrote of enslaving natives living in the so-called New World.
Banned or Challenged Books Available in Murch Library
(Compiled by Librarian Rebecca Burton)
Christine Baldacchino: Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress
Jerry Craft: New Kid
Roald Dahl: James and the Giant Peach
Roald Dahl: The Witches
Alex Gino: Melissa (George) *
Louise Fitzhugh: Harriet the Spy
Madeleine L’Engle: A Wrinkle in Time
Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds: Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You **
Leslea Newman: Heather Has Two Mommies
Katherine Paterson: The Great Gilly Hopkins
Katherine Paterson: Bridge to Terabithia
Dav Pilkey: Captain Underpants series
Todd Parr: The Family Book
Gayle Pitman: This Day in June
Patricia Polacco: In Our Mother’s House
Richardson/Parnell: And Tango Makes Three ***
J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter series
Shel Silverstein: The Giving Tree
Shel Silverstein: A Light in the Attic
Lane Smith: It’s a Book
* #14 on CBS News list of “50 Most Banned Books in America.”
** #49 on CBS list
*** #50 on CBS list