Girls Who Code Founder Speaks Out After School District Bans Her Books

  • Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani speaks out after her company’s book series was banned from a Pennsylvania school district.
  • The books have just been included in PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans, a list of banned literature nationwide.
  • “This is about controlling women, and it starts with controlling our girls and what information they have access to,” Saujani told Insider.

Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani was enjoying a quiet Saturday morning with her two young children when news hit her phone – her company’s book series had been added to a list of banned books in schools.

The series, which chronicles a group of young girls and their adventures as part of a programming club at their school, has just been included in PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans, a comprehensive, nationwide list of restricted literature. The index is updated annually by the organization that works to protect freedom of expression through the promotion of literature and human rights.

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“I was just shocked,” Saujani told Insider. “This is about controlling women, and it starts with controlling our girls and what information they have access to.”

The Girls Who Code books were specifically banned by Pennsylvania’s Central York School District, which is in a critical political swing region where Saujani said the organization has an active club. However, she said the move is part of a larger effort by Moms for Liberty, a conservative organization that advocates for parental rights in schools, including oversight of educational supplies.

“In a way, we know that book banning was an extreme political tool of the right — banning books to protect our children from things that are ‘obscene’ or ‘provocative’ — but there’s nothing obscene or ‘provocative’ about these books Provocative,” she told Insider.

Moms for Liberty did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on the ban.

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The books have been joined by other new additions to the list – some covering race, women’s and LGBTQ+ rights – including The Handmaid’s Tale, Speak and Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic.

“We use these stories to teach kids how to code,” she said. “It felt very much like a direct attack on the movement we were building to get girls into coding. Especially in counties that don’t have the technology or unequal WiFi, books are a great way to learn to code and a way to balance access to coding.”

Saujani added that removing the books not only hampers the visibility of women in tech fields, but also diversity in the industry as many of the protagonists in the series are young girls of color.

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” she said. “They don’t want girls learning to code because it’s a way of being economically secure.”

The authors of the Girls Who Code books – Stacia Deutsch, Michelle Schusterman and Jo Whittemore – joined Saujani to speak about the ban.

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“Yep. I got banned Because some people don’t focus on how awesome, empowering and inspirational these books are, choosing instead to fear,” Whittemore wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

Since learning of the ban, Saujani said she has reached out to the president of the Central York School District and several teachers in the area to understand why the books ended up on the list and to get the series back on the list to bring schools.

The Central York School District did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

“This is an opportunity to recognize how big this movement is against our children and how much we have to fight,” Saujani told Insider. “This is an opportunity to start more clubs, get more girls into programming, and get more girls to become economically free.”

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