A Kids Book About: The Podcast

Nora Talks About Banned Books

Episode Summary

Nora Pelizzari, author of A Kids Book About Banned Books, talks about why people ban books, the importance of inclusivity in our libraries, and how books can help you see the world in a different way.

Episode Notes

Nora Pelizzari, author of A Kids Book About Banned Books, talks about why people ban books, the importance of inclusivity in our libraries, and how books can help you see the world in a different way.

A Kids Book About Banned Books (view book)

Full Book Description:

Every day in schools across the country books are challenged for carrying narratives, centering characters, and tackling topics that feel uncomfortable for some people. This book explains what book banning is and helps start a conversation about how reading and having access to new information and ideas helps us stop, think, and grow!

About the Author:

The National Coalition Against Censorship is an alliance of over 50 national nonprofits. The NCAC has been fighting for kids’ rights to read since 1974. We believe that kids deserve to speak, learn, and create freely.

*If you want to be on a future episode of A Kids Book About: The Podcast or if you have a question you’d like us to consider, have a grownup email us at listen@akidsco.com and we’ll send you the details. 

Episode Transcription

A Kids Book About: The Podcast

S2 EP18, Nora Talks About Banned Books


Matthew: What are banned books?

Dane: No, I don't know what that means. 

Dane's Mom: Okay. That's okay. That's what we're going to learn. We're going to learn what it means. Um, all right. So no other thoughts on like what banned books might mean?

Dane: Um, when somebody doesn't let you do something that you want to do. 

Dane's Mom: Okay. I think that's a good start.

Nora: Banned books are books that some people decide that no kids should be allowed to read.

Matthew: Welcome to A Kids Book About: The Podcast! I’m Matthew. I’m a teacher, a librarian, and I’m your host. The voices you heard just a moment ago were from Dane and Nora. 

Each week we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. 

Nora: Hi, my name is Nora Pelizzari from the National Coalition Against Censorship. 

I'm an advocate and a mom who loves to read and I'm the author of A Kids Book About Banned Books. 


Matthew: At the time of releasing this, many of you have returned to school. I’m not sure how many of you have discussed the topic of banned books in your classroom. 

Let’s first make sure that all of us understand why someone or some group might attempt to ban a book from a classroom, library, or school.

Nora: People ban books for lots of reasons, but mostly people ban books because they're afraid. They're afraid of what kids might learn. They're afraid that kids will not be able to handle the words or the pictures or the ideas in certain books. 

But really they're afraid of the questions kids might ask, or the conversation that kids might want to have after reading about new ideas that might make the grownups uncomfortable.

Matthew: I talked with students regularly in my library about the topic of banned books, what books are regularly challenged, and why certain people took issue with certain books. 

But I also reminded my students that librarians believe that all people have the right to access information freely, no matter their age, their beliefs, their reading ability, or any other factor. 

That doesn’t mean that I never removed books from my library, of course. 

Nora: Library's only have so much space. Bookshelves are not endless. So sometimes books have to be taken out of libraries because they haven't been checked out in a while and there isn't enough space on the shelf for new books. 

But if a book is taken out of a collection to keep kids from reading, it, that's a book ban. So book bans limit or completely take away kids' access to a book because people don't like what's inside. 

Matthew: Fun fact: many librarians actually celebrate banned books. Or, rather, they celebrate your right to access books of your own choosing. There’s a whole celebration in September called… you guessed it… Banned Books Week. It usually happens around the last full week in September.

The first Banned Books Week was in 1982, 40 years ago! And the American Library Association, or ALA, has celebrated ever since. 

The National Coalition Against Censorship, the organization that Nora works for, has been fighting against all kinds of censorship, including book bans, even longer than that! 

Nora: NCAC has been around for 50 years and we've been doing this the whole time, so…

Matthew: Quick aside: we keep throwing around the name of this organization. Let’s take a moment to understand who they are and what they do.

Nora: The National Coalition Against Censorship or NCAC like we, we call ourselves is a group of free expression advocates. 

So, we defend kids rights to read. And students right to protest and speak and write and make art. And we defend everyone's right to think what they want and believe what they want and create what they want and learn what they want and say what they want, because that is everyone's human right. And it's every American's First Amendment right. 

Matthew: This happens to be a particularly difficult time for book bans, and there’s a reason for it.

Nora: Book bans flare up at times of cultural wars, right?

So like the last time book bans were this bad was like the eighties and nineties with like Judy Bloom and books about puberty and sexuality and stuff like that. 

So you see it at, sort of, times when culture seems to be making some progress and then there's a backlash against people who wish that it weren't and think that if you don't read about it, maybe it won't happen.

Matthew: People get scared or angry or protective, and the way they respond is to say, “Not only is my kid not allowed to read this book. No kid should be allowed to read it.”

Nora: Not every kid is ready for every book at any given moment, but like that doesn't matter. You know, those are individual decisions made by individual parents and book bans aim to take away that choice from other people. 

It's not about keeping your kid from reading a book, cause you already can do that. You can keep your kid from reading a book. You can ask for a different assignment in school, you can put restrictions on what they check out from the library. You can control what your kid reads. 

But book bans try to control what other people's kids are reading. So it's about, like, controlling the information. It's not really about protecting your kid. 

Matthew: We will be back in a minute with Nora Pelizzari and how you can help to make sure books and libraries are defended and can be accessed by anyone. All of that, right after this quick break. 


Matthew: Welcome back to A Kids Book About: The Podcast. On today’s episode we’re talking about banned books with A Kids Book About author Nora Pelizzari.

Nora’s got big feelings about banned books. And these are big feelings that I share, as well.

Nora: Thinking about book bans makes me feel angry, sad, and scared.

I feel angry that people want to limit what kids are allowed to read. It makes me sad that some kids won't get to read some really amazing stories. And it makes me feel scared about how lonely a kid might feel if they can't find any books that have characters like them in their library. 

Matthew: This is not to say that a banned book won’t one day find it’s way back to the shelf, but that the impact of banning a book goes far deeper than that.

Nora: Books can certainly be welcomed back after they've been removed, but that usually takes a lot of people in that school or that town or that community where it was banned, pushing really hard for it to be allowed back on the bookshelf. And there are lots of ways to access books these days. That's absolutely true, but not every kid can just go to a bookstore or ask their parents to buy them a book online. So it's really important to make sure that books are available in the places that are easiest for most kids to access like schools and libraries.

Matthew: There are many, many great and important things said in A Kids Book About Banned Books, but this line might be my favorite: “Without books that challenge you, stretch your brain, and teach you new things… You learn less. You discover less. You explore less. You feel less.”

Reading and accessing information has a big impact on readers. I know you know this already, listeners.

Nora: Books are a great way to explore the world, especially for kids who don't get to decide where they travel or if they travel or where they want to go. When you read stories, you get to visit new places and meet new people and maybe you think about things you haven't thought about before. 

Maybe you think about things that make you feel uncomfortable, but books make us ask questions that we didn't even know to ask. They can make us feel connected to characters who have lives that are totally different than ours or connected to character whose lives are like ours, and maybe we haven't met a lot of people whose lives are like ours. 

And that helps us to understand people better. It helps us to understand ourselves better, and it helps us to understand the whole world better. It helps us to grow and learn. 

So when we don't get to read stories that make us think about new ideas and new people, and maybe think in new ways, we don't get to grow and learn and become the people that we’re growing into.

Matthew: A Kids Book About Banned Books came about as the NCAC and A Kids Co were partnering to help combat censorship and this new wave of book bans.

Nora: Book bans have always been a problem. People have been trying to ban books as long as there have been books. And as long as there have been kids, uh, books get banned every year, but lately a lot more people have been trying to ban a lot more books. And so more people are talking about book bans. And we wanted to make sure that kids, who are often the ones who are most affected by book bans, understand what's going on. 

So we were put in touch with A Kids Co and, um, we thought it would be a great idea to work together, to make sure that we could reach out directly to the people who were most affected by this issue to understand what the issue really is because it's really hard to fight for something or argue about something if you don't sort of have all the information.

Matthew: This is not the first time or the last that you will encounter book bans in your life. As we end our time together, Nora shared this great advice for all of us to take with us as we enter those book spaces in the future.

Nora: The most important thing for defending books is to talk about books. To talk about the books that you love, the books that made you think differently, books that excited you or scared you. To talk about what books mean to you and what you learned from then and how they make you feel. 

So if you hear about a book that matters to you or a book that matters to a friend of yours is being threatened with a ban, or someone's trying to remove it, the most important thing you can do is talk about why that book matters. 

Tell a parent or a teacher there or a librarian because students' voices and kids' voices are actually really powerful in fighting against book bans. So if you can find a way to make your voice in your local newspaper or at your school board meeting, or, you know, writing something for your teacher or your librarian to read at a school board meeting, that can be really, really powerful. 


Matthew: Thank you to Nora Pelizzari, author of A Kids Book About Banned Books, for joining us today. And special thanks to Dane for lending their voice to this episode.

Dane: My name's Dane.

Dane's Mom: How old are you? 

Dane: Seven. 

Dane's Mom: And where do you live? 

Dane: Um, Barcelona, Spain. 

Dane's Mom: And what's your favorite thing to do? 

Dane: Um, karate, football, and tennis. 

Dane's Mom: And when you say football, do you mean soccer? Or do you mean American football? Soccer. 

Matthew: Want to be on a future episode of A Kids Book About: The Podcast? Write to me or record a message and email me at listen@akidsco.com

A Kids Book About: The Podcast is written, edited, and produced by me, Matthew Winner, with help from Chad Michael Snavely and the team at Sound On Studios. Our executive producer is Jelani Memory. And this show was brought to you by A Kids Podcast About. 

Follow the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever podcasts are found and check out other podcasts made for kids just like you by visiting akidsco.com

Join us next week for a conversation about self-love with A Kids Book About author Brandon Farbstein.