Many school districts in Maine and across the country are seeing a rise in book challenges of library and classroom books, leaving educators and administrators to “defend” the books on the shelves. These challenges are about more than the content of the texts; they are attempts to silence and erase the truths and humanity of the books’ characters and creators.
The Maine Learning Results, approved by the Maine Legislature, articulate goals for all Maine students to be “a responsible and informed citizen” and “an integrated and informed thinker.” Access to and choice of a wide range of reading material are vital to developing perspectives and insights that prepare students for participation in a global society. All Americans, specifically young people in our educational institutions, are guaranteed access to information and ideas from various points of view under the Freedom of Speech in the First Amendment. Censorship is a danger to the ideals of our state and our nation.
In response to the attacks on intellectual freedom and the rights of Maine students to freely access information, MASL is proud to issue this joint statement and series of Intellectual Freedom Matters infographics designed to support educational stakeholders in responding to book challenges and combating censorship. Karen Silverman (MASL Intellectual Freedom Chair) and Iris Eichenlaub (MASL Social Media/Engagement Chair) represented our organization to collaborate on these documents. Access the complete statement, infographics, and other resources on Educate Maine's website.
MASL stands with Maine educators and librarians and affirms the responsibility to ensure and protect students’ rights to intellectual freedom. We support educators who assure the representation of all people and their identities in libraries and classrooms. In fact, it is unrestricted access to literature inclusive of all identities, cultures, and religions that will promote the development of empathy and understanding by and for our young people–the future leaders of our communities.
It is our firm resolve that educators, librarians, and other school officials feel supported and united with Maine’s professional organizations in guaranteeing intellectual freedom is upheld. MASL, alongside these other partner organizations, is available for outreach if you need further support or resources.
What to do if you face a challenge in your school:
The best way to deal with a challenge is to be prepared before any challenge is made. Make sure your challenge policies are up-to-date and include the procedures to follow in the event of a challenge. If you do not have a reconsideration policy, or if it is out of date, the American Library Association Office of Intellectual Freedom (ALA OIFA) offers a Selection & Reconsideration Policy Toolkit for Public, School, & Academic Libraries that is full of useful resources.
If the challenge is made directly to you, listen carefully to the person’s concerns. Offer them your district’s form to request reconsideration of the materials. Ask them to fill out the reconsideration form and return it to you. Be sure to alert your school administrator. Often, a polite conversation can hold off a formal book challenge.
If the challenge is for classroom materials, you can support the process by gathering reviews and other information about the title to help the committee make a decision.
If your school is facing a challenge in your school or library, please reach out to the the MASL Intellectual Freedom chair, Karen Silverman (email@example.com).