'I'm so angry I cannot breathe' says Girls Who Code founder over suspected book ban attempt

Two girls learning to code on an Apple laptop.
(Image credit: Girls Who Code)

The tech industry gender gap is still vast, even in this the year of our lord 2022. Frankly we should have been rejoicing when the Girls Who Code initiative set out to put coding books for girls out into school libraries. Sadly, that may not have been the case; four of the books were added to the PEN America's Index of School Book Bans after being removed from Pennsylvania's Central York School District libraries.

"I am so angry I cannot breathe," Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani writes in a LinkedIn post (via The Register) outlining the scrutiny over the books.

These are simply tales of young girls enjoying time with friends while learning to code, many of the protagonists giving voices to girls of colour. In fact, the books were a part of a suggested reading list, one that would encourage diversity in US teaching resources.

The Guardian reports that, although the free expression nonprofit initiative PEN America had listed the books as having been banned by the Pennsylvania school, officials deny the claims, calling them "categorically false." The school's statement notes that the book series "has not been banned, and they remain available in our libraries."

How the coding books managed to find their way onto the PEN America ban list is unclear, as Centre Daily Times reports, "PEN America did not respond to a request for comment."

Still, it's evident Saujani wouldn't have stood for a full ban. There's some true Mom warrior energy in her post, calling out the Moms for Liberty group she's pegged as responsible for the bans. She even warns them that her group, Marshall Plan for Moms "won't let you roll back progress for our children."

Saujani spoke to Business Insider with concerns that "This is about controlling women and it starts with controlling our girls." Strong words, and even if the books haven't actually been banned in classrooms, the worry isn't entirely unfounded.

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It all stems from what The Guardian describes as a culture war, one in which conservatives went on a bit of an assault against material that they deemed potentially offensive or inappropriate for children—material seen as pushing liberal ideals in US classrooms.

The groups scrutinising the Girls Who Code series may not take issue with the idea of teaching girls to code, then. It looks like the books, and those who might learn to code with them, may instead be victims of a much more deep seated, political turmoil going on in the US right now.

The bottom line is maybe teach your own daughters to code, because it could end up that their classroom reading materials get caught up in some idiotic culture war. Here's how you can get involved with the Girls Who Code initiative, and bypass all the contention.

Katie Wickens
Hardware Writer

Screw sports, Katie would rather watch Intel, AMD and Nvidia go at it. Having been obsessed with computers and graphics for three long decades, she took Game Art and Design up to Masters level at uni, and has been demystifying tech and science—rather sarcastically—for three years since. She can be found admiring AI advancements, scrambling for scintillating Raspberry Pi projects, preaching cybersecurity awareness, sighing over semiconductors, and gawping at the latest GPU upgrades. She's been heading the PCG Steam Deck content hike, while waiting patiently for her chance to upload her consciousness into the cloud.