The Changing Times with Banned Books

Some books are being banned and challenged more and more in states across the country.


In the education system, books are being challenged all over the country. Book banning has happened in the past, but there have been more visible actions in recent years.

There are not as many noticeable book bannings in SMJUHSD because there has not been much emphasis placed. Other communities may be changing, but in this community, people may not be able to determine that these conflicts are happening on a larger scale. Time will only tell when there will be changes in the school’s library.

SMHS library technician, Rebecca Spendlove, comments, “Occasionally, someone will read a book and say that they don’t feel it’s appropriate, so we’ll give it to one of the administrators to decide whether it’s appropriate. That hasn’t happened very much. Maybe once or twice in the last 25 years.”

The process of how the books are available at our library includes orders, entering information into the card catalog, processing the books with barcodes, stamping them, and finally being displayed on the shelves. There is a database where everyone can access this information, called the Destiny Library Manager.

We try to keep it at a particular reading level. Genres that everybody would be interested in.

— Rebecca Spendlove

Where you live in the US seems to dictate how many book bans you’ll witness. Where one school may be seeing several challenges and books pulled from the shelves, some schools may not see many changes at all. Based on the American Library Association, Nevada had the least attempts to restrict access to books in 2022 (zero) compared to Texas (2349). According to ALA, 2022 had the highest amount of 2,571 attempts to ban books.

Who’s challenging books? Data from ALA

The way that books become banned can begin with parents and what the school board/administration finds appropriate. As a parent and a grandparent, Spendlove explains, “If my grandkids were reading off the shelves and I looked at them and felt they were inappropriate, I feel like I should have some say in whether or not that book was appropriate for my child or grandchild to read. Personally, parents should have more involvement. I don’t feel like that should be taken from them.” Other involvements come from patrons or political groups, or even community members with zero children in their local schools who begin the challenge to ban books.

Cover courtesy of Simon & Schuster

The content within a book is the indicator of deciding whether or not it is appropriate. Recently, Assassination Classroom, a sci-fi manga, by Yusei Matsui, was banned from schools in Florida and Wisconsin. One of the main reasons had to do with the fact that manga promotes violent acts against teachers. Similar books associated with themes like these are justified. An anonymous SMHS student comments, “As a viewer, how exactly did this manga end up in the schools in the first place? The only way I found this manga was from Crunchyroll.”

There is a difference between simply challenging a book and having it banned outright.  On ALA’s website, they mention, “A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials.”

Cover courtesy of Simon & Schuster

However, there is controversy among books that focus on different themes. An example of this would include Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe which has been challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and claimed to be sexually explicit, according to ALA. 151 challenges have been made against the graphic memoir, being challenged the most in 2022. Other challenged and banned books contain themes that involve race, history, sexual orientation, and gender.

The organization PEN America has the Index of School Book Bans to help you to discover which books were challenged and their ban status. PEN America has also reported that there has been a 28% increase in school book bans in the first half of the 2022-2023 school year. The book-banning issue seems to be expanding this school year through the actions being made public across the country.

It has been 90 years since Nazi-dominated groups performed the public burning of books. Based on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, around 25,000 volumes of “un-German” books were burned beginning on May 10, 1933. Book burnings were history’s version of book bannings. It’s nothing new as to what one may guess of the reasons behind those actions.

The dystopian world of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, which was challenged to censor graphic content throughout the years, is becoming a not-too-distant reality.