Why are Children’s and Young Adult Books Challenged and Banned?

Bias, Discrimination & Hate
Derry Public Library Banned Books Display

Derry Public Library | CC BY 2.0

Grade Level:
Middle School
Common Core Standards:
Reading, Speaking and Listening, Language
SEL Standards*:
Self-Awareness, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, Responsible Decision-Making
Bias, Discrimination & Hate

What are Reasons and Explanations for Challenging and Banning Books?

Challenging and banning books goes back centuries. In recent times, children’s and young adult books have been challenged and banned. The reasons and explanations are many and varied and include profanity, “values,” restriction of LGBTQ+ content, political viewpoints, sexual content/references, “divisive language,” anti-racism, conflicts with a religious viewpoint, and more. Every year, the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office of Intellectual Freedom compiles a list of the most challenged books and the cited reasons for that year and disseminates that list widely. Since the 1980’s the ALA has sponsored “Banned Books Week,” an annual event celebrating “the freedom to read.” It is usually held during the last week of September and spotlights current and historical attempts to censor and ban books in libraries and schools.

About the Lesson

This lesson provides an opportunity for students to learn more about this history of book banning in the U.S., reflect on experiences they’ve had with book challenges and bans, and examine and analyze a list of challenged books.

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will learn more about historical and present-day book banning practices. 
  • Students will reflect on their own experiences with book challenges and bans.
  • Students will examine why books are challenged by studying one year of the most challenged books and understand more about those challenges.
  • Students will explore ideas for challenging book bans.
* Based on CASEL's SEL Framework

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