- Girls Who Code founder Reshma Sujani speaks up after her company’s book series was banned from a Pennsylvania school.
- Books have been added to PEN America Textbook Ban IndexList of banned literature across the country.
- “This is about controlling women and it starts with controlling our girls and what information they have access to,” Sujani told Insider.
Girls Who Code founder Reshma Sujani was enjoying a quiet Saturday morning with her two young children when a news alert hit her phone — her company’s book series had been placed on the school’s banned book list.
The series, which tells the story of a group of young girls and their adventures as part of their school’s coding club, has just been added to the PEN America Textbook Ban Index, A nationwide comprehensive list of banned literature. The index is updated annually by organisationwhich calls for the protection of freedom of expression through the promotion of literature and human rights.
“I was just shocked,” Sajani told Insider. “This is about controlling women and it starts with controlling our girls and the information they have access to.”
Girls Who Code books have been specifically banned by the Central York school district in Pennsylvania, located in a critical political swaying area where Sujani said the organization has an active club. But she said the move was part of a larger effort by Moms for Liberty, a conservative organization that advocates for parental rights in schools, including oversight of educational materials.
“We know in some ways that the book ban was an extreme political tool by the right — banning books to protect our children from ‘obscene’ or ‘provocative’ things — but there is nothing obscene or provocative in these books,” said the insider.
Moms for Liberty did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on the ban.
Joining the books are other recent additions to the list—many of them addressing racial, feminist, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights issues—including “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Speak,” and “Fun Home: A Tragicomic Family.”
“We use these stories to teach kids to code,” she said. “It pretty much felt like a direct attack on the movement we were building to get girls into coding. Especially in areas that don’t have the technology or have differentiated Wi-Fi, books are a great way to learn programming and a way to equalize access to coding.”
Sajani added that removing the books not only hampers women’s visibility in technology fields, but also hampers diversity in the industry, as many of the series’ heroines are young girls of colour.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” she said. “They don’t want girls to learn how to code because that’s a way to be economically secure.”
The authors of the Girls Who Code books – Stacia Deutsch, Michelle Schusterman and Jo Whittemore – have joined Saujani in speaking out about the ban.
“Yes, I got banned. Because some people choose not to focus on how amazing, empowering, and inspiring these books are, but instead choose to be afraid,” wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
Since learning about the ban, Sujani said she has reached out to the head of the Central York School District and several teachers in the area to understand why the books made it to the list and to bring the series back to schools.
Central York School District did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
“This is an opportunity to realize the scale of this movement against our children and how much we need to fight back,” Sajani told Insider. “This is an opportunity to start more clubs, motivate more girls to code, and motivate more girls to be economically liberal.”