The project | Sunshine requests for public records of book challenges were sent to all 566 Missouri school districts asking for all correspondence regarding book challenges since Jan. 1, 2008. Responses to the requests came in from 495 of the school districts. There were 51 titles challenged in 32 school districts, including one in Columbia. Many of the challenges had less to do with the overall content of a book but more to do with whether it was appropriate for certain age groups. Others argued that the books they were challenging were inconsistent with community values or that they contained language and references to behavior that conflicted with school conduct rules.
Dear Reader | Charles Davis, an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, organized the book challenges project published by the Missourian this week. Davis credits his students' dogged pursuit of information as well as the access to public information our country provides to the project's successful results.
Book challenges nationwide
Behind the challenges | Placed against a national backdrop, Missouri's library book challenges hit many common themes. Nationwide trends have emerged showing who submits the most library book challenges, what they're about and which books take the most heat.
Banned in Arizona | In an effort to encourage diversity in schools, a Kansas City school district is flipping a recent, controversial action by a district across the country on its head. The Tucson School District in Tucson, Ariz., smothered an ethnic studies program in one of its schools under claims that it encouraged racial separatism. In an unconventional response to the Arizona district's decision, Guadalupe Education Systems in Kansas City is studying the possibility of specifically teaching the books banned in the high-profile case.
New technology | The content of children's textbooks has long been fodder for debate. However, the nature of those debates is entering a new dimension with the advent of technologies that could mark the beginning of a new generation of learning. While the tablet and eBooks driving the movement could provide more interactive, effective teaching materials, politicians and school officials must find new ways to regulate content and the ways students use the technologies available to them.
Book challenges in Missouri
Columbia | When Kim Alexander’s fifth-grade daughter, Jesseca, brought "The Face on the Milk Carton" home from school, Alexander decided to read it for herself. She was disturbed by the tone of the book, in which the main character sees her face as a missing child on a milk carton and runs away to find her true identity. "During the entire book she is frantic, crying and emotionally helpless. No solution is ever proposed for coping skills," Alexander wrote when she challenged the book, asking Paxton Keeley Elementary School to remove it from its library. The school district decided to keep the book without restrictions. In Vox Magazine.
Psychology | Why do people challenge books? Laura King, professor of psychological sciences at MU, says it is about control and defending one's world view and belief systems. In Vox Magazine.
Challenging a book | Appointed committees typically are charged with reading challenged books
and determining whether their content is appropriate.
Jackson | "The Hunger Games," the first novel in a popular teen trilogy,
was challenged by parents at Jackson Middle School in 2009. The novel,
which contains violent scenes and themes, was ultimately removed from
required reading lists at the school, though it remains on the library's shelves.
Republic | Republic High School received national attention in 2010 after
banning a book many consider to be an American classic – "Slaughterhouse-Five."
The challenger, a business professor at Missouri State University, also requested
the school board restrict two other novels – "Twenty Boy Summer," a coming-of-age
romance, and "Speak," a book about a teenager trying to cope with being raped.
Camdenton | "The Kite Runner," a widely acclaimed novel by Khaled Hosseini,
spurred controversy and debate among parents and educators at Camdenton High
School in 2009. Due to a handful of violent and sexually charged scenes scattered
throughout the book, parents began to complain, leading the district to re-examine
the novel's place on its schools' required reading lists.