Respect Diversity + Inclusion

New program is sending free copies of challenged books to Missourians

Story at a glance

  • Two organizations in Missouri are sending free copies of challenged books to state residents who request them.
  • The Banned Book program was created as a response to the movement to ban certain books in public schools and libraries that has picked up speed in recent months. It was launched by the nonprofit In Purpose Educational Services and the bookstore EyeSeeMe, both of which are based in St. Louis.
  • This month, those who qualify for the program will be sent a copy of Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” which the American Library Association has called one of the most challenged books in the nation.

Two Missouri groups are teaming up to deliver copies of challenged books to parents and students in the state free of charge. The initiative comes as books across the country — pertaining mostly to race, gender identity and sexual orientation — are challenged for being what some consider sexually explicit or inappropriate for young readers.

The Banned Book Program, launched by the nonprofit In Purpose Educational Services (IPES) and the bookstore EyeSeeMe — both based in St. Louis — was created as a response to the growing movement to ban books in public schools. Through the program, copies of one challenged book per month will be shipped to Missourians who request it.

“In recent times, school districts have increasingly faced efforts to ban the books used in classrooms and school libraries. These books are often the works of people from historically-excluded identity groups in an effort to suppress the inclusion of diverse stories in our educational institutions,” reads a statement on IPES’ website. “We believe that this is censorship that removes the rights of ALL parents to make educational decisions for their children and for students to explore diversity of thought, knowledge, and experiences.”


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Interested parties can fill out a form on IPES’ website, which will then be reviewed by the group. Those who qualify will be sent a free copy of the book, courtesy of EyeSeeMe. This month, qualified applicants will receive a copy of Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” which tackles race, class, gender and societal beauty standards.

The program, which began in January, raised more than $3,000 just hours after launching, Heather Fleming, founder of In Purpose Educational Services, told St. Louis Public Radio.

“If you look at most of the books that they are trying to ban, they are the stories of people from historically marginalized groups,” She said. “We have to grapple with some of the things that have happened in our society. Number one, to make sure that they don’t happen again. But then number two, because we need to learn how to live with one another.”

All donations to the groups’ Banned Book Fund go directly to the cost of books and shipping, according to IPES.

According to a November analysis of challenged titles in the St. Louis area, two-thirds are written by authors of color and authors who identify as LGBTQ+. “The Bluest Eye” has received the most formal requests for removal from public school libraries, St. Louis Public Radio reported.

Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” is one of the most challenged books in the country, according to the American Library Association (ALA). Other frequently challenged titles include “George” by Alex Gino, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas and “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Classic literature like John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” are also frequently challenged and in some cases have been successfully banned from school districts, according to the ALA.


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