The Banned Books Controversy

One of the biggest educational controversies in America is what students should be allowed to read in school. Parents and professionals alike are wary of what is on school shelves and how some books might influence kids. Yet why is it important to talk about this subject? We must dive into the country’s history of forbidden titles and ask families their opinions about the subjects they cover for answers.


What defines a banned book?


Books are prohibited in America for many reasons, although the most common one is to protect vulnerable populations. These are mostly children. Yet what exactly is a banned book? Knowing the difference between a challenged book and a banned one is important. A challenge is when someone or a group tries to censor a title; a ban is when a title gets removed.


Why are some books banned in America?


From July 2021 to June 2022, 2,532 individual books were censored in the United States, as reported by Pen America. Among the states, Texas had the highest number of documented titles forbidden, ranging from 751 to 1,000. The motivations behind keeping certain books away from children vary and encompass a multitude of reasons. These issues include:

  • Sex
  • Racial Issues
  • Non-White Main Characters
  • LGBTQ Content
A pile of books.
A pile of books. Illustration: Adobe Stock


Notable Banned Titles


Parents have challenged countless titles through the ages, and the reasons behind them might be surprising. Some popular successfully censored ones include:

  • The Grapes of Wrath (Prohibited from three libraries in 1939 for swearing)
  • Slaughterhouse-Five (Sex, violence, and swearing)
  • And Tango Makes Three (Homosexual themes)
  • James and the Giant Peach (References to alcohol and cursing)
  • A Light in the Attic (Violence, cannibalism, and disobedience)


What to Remember

Many educational professionals encourage children to read what they want to expose them to new ideas, which can be controversial at times.   However, this does not mean every student should be forced to read the same thing. Freedom to read various titles is an individual choice.

The parent must decide what they do or do not. Parents should educate themselves about literary content before they decide what their son or daughter should read. All kids must not be held to the same standards based on one person or group of persons’ opinions based on their personal and/or religious beliefs.

Laura C. Giangiuli, a mother to an only child, approves of her daughter exploring new books as long as it is age appropriate. She also believes that book censorship should not apply to every child.

“For me, I appreciate and respect every parent’s right to determine what they want their kids to read or watch. But I don’t think that should extend to other parents and kids. Proper notice and alternative choices should be given so every family can make decisions that align with their values of one family or group shouldn’t determine what every child gets to read,” Giangiuli writes.

Another anonymous mother of three children says she would discuss banned topics with them depending on what they were.


The next Banned Books Week will be celebrated from October 1st-7th, 2023.



  1. Freedom To Read. n.d. “Bannings and Burnings in History.” Freedom to Read. .
  2. American Library Association. 2016. “Banned Book FAQ.” Advocacy, Legislation & Issues. October 25, 2016. .
  3. Friedman, Jonathan, and Nadine Johnson. 2022. “Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools.” PEN America. September 19, 2022.
  4. ‌“Banned: And Tango Makes Three.” PBS. Accessed June 25, 2023.,be%20placed%20in%20a%20section.
  5. Admin. “Banned & Challenged Classics.” Advocacy, Legislation & Issues, April 23, 2021.



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