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Ask A Librarian

Books: challenged, banned, and burned

Researching and tracing trends and events

Investigation, interrogation, reflection

Questions to consider about book challenges and bans

The challenge

  • When was the book challenged?
  • Where was it challenged?
  • Who brought the challenge?
  • Who or what was the target of the challenge?
  • Why was the book challenged?
    • This might include both stated and unstated objections
      • What are the superficial or dramatic objections?
      • What are the possibly deeper objections?

The book

  • What does the book/text ask of the reader? 
  • What age group is the targeted or general demographic for the text?


  • At what age are children ready to deal with topics framed for mature readers [?] such as
    • Drugs
    • Sex
    • Gender
    • Violence
    • Misogyny
    • Racism
  • Stories that invite the readers to struggle with difficult questions and process troubling events are often challenged. Objections are often framed as justification.
    • Does the book invite struggle with a difficult question?
    • Can you articulate the essential question?
    • Is it openly stated in the text?
  • What content might be superficially objected to? What might be a deeper objection, or what deeper message or question might make parents uncomfortable? Are there questions of social justice? Is the author or characters from traditionally underrepresented groups?

Context and culture

  • Are there any local culturally specific events, practices, demographics to provide illumination to the challenge?
  • What national events and movements provide context?
  • Are you more or less comfortable in a culture where difficulties, discrimination, and/or atrocities occur to others and you have the option to turn away? Are you less comfortable with a culture where you cannot, for whatever reason, turn away?