Politics and Children’s Books: Evidence from School Library Collections

Authors: Kirsten Slungaard Mumma

Project Summary

This study begins by compiling a novel data set on the books in over 6,000 school libraries across the country. With this unique look inside school library shelves, the author then details some trends and themes related to the collections based on various characteristics, including for instance difference across high and low-income schools and the political leanings of surrounding areas.

Key Findings

  • Schools with more white students, schools located in high-income areas, and schools in non-rural areas have better-resourced school libraries than their counterparts. School libraries in high-income areas acquire substantially more books and employ about 40% more staff than low-income schools.
  • Politics appear to be at play.
    • While books with “controversial content” tend to be widely available, prevalence of certain titles appears to be influenced by local politics, state laws and the social environment around which the school exists.
    • Book challenges in the 2021-22 school year have had a chilling effect on the acquisition and access of certain content in school libraries, LGBTQ+ content in particular.

Project Resources