Challenged Books In Warwick Schools

At the Sept. 21 Warwick School Board meeting, several people spoke angrily about the need to remove two books from our local schools.

The first book is “All American Boys” by Jason Reynolds and Brandon Kiely. This award-winning novel is the moving and difficult story of Rashad Butler and Quinn Collins as they react to racism and violence in their community related to the police. The book was recently added to the 9th grade Language Arts Curriculum after a lengthy process in which numerous educators reviewed the book and collaboratively wrote the unit lessons. Reynolds is the current National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.

The second book is “It Feels Good to be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity.” This picture book by author Theresa Thorn and illustrator Noah Grigni introduces the concept of gender identity to the youngest reader. It is not being used in any curriculum, but it is on the shelves in at least one WSD elementary school library as a resource for children and parents to check out and read together. The book is written by the mother of a transgender child and has garnered numerous starred reviews from major review publications, which means the children’s literature community has honored it for its prose and content.

As of yesterday, the books are under “review”, per this portion of Superintendent Dr. April Hershey’s letter to WSD families:

“Questions about School Materials

Also at last night’s meeting, there were questions about a book that is part of the 9th grade curriculum, and an elementary library book. Both of these books are currently being reviewed under the Warwick School District procedures for handling challenged materials. As always, if parents and families are concerned about resources, content or curriculum, they may reach out to the teacher or administrator to discuss concerns.”

Both books are currently still on the shelves at the schools, but the community members at the meeting were calling for their permanent removal. We stand strongly with the professional educators who brought these books into the school system after careful review. Books that serve as windows, mirrors, and doors are vital to educating our youth about acceptance, empathy, and compassion, as well as letting them see themselves in literature.

We encourage community members to read these titles, share them with your children/grandchildren/nieces/nephews/neighbors, and to discuss them. In the aftermath of the blanket banning of more than 300 books and resources that was recently rescinded in Central York School District, we want this community to remain informed and engaged so that we do not see book banning become a default action whenever a few parents disagree with the content or presentation of literature in the classroom or on the library shelves.

Put simply, our educators and librarians are highly trained professionals who choose texts with the interests of ALL our students in mind. Only allowing books that represent one voice and one view is antithetical to what public education strives to do. Banning books hurts the entire community.

The Aaron’s Books Family

All American Boys Cover Image
ISBN: 9781481463348
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books - August 29th, 2017

It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity Cover Image
By Theresa Thorn, Noah Grigni (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781250302953
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) - June 4th, 2019