Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Main site homepage

Researching Banned or Challenged Books: Was Winnie the Pooh Banned?

Sources of information about why a particular title has been challenged, with links to lists of challenged or censored titles.
The ALA Library regularly receives inquiries about why a particular book was banned.  One of the more startling was Winnie the Pooh, a long-beloved tale by A.A. Milne.  With some research, we identified the story behind this and some other misconceptions on banned or challenged books. The explanation about the A. A. Milne classic, adapted from a blog post entitled Ban Pooh? and published in AL Direct in 2011, is included below.

The Radcliffe 100

Until 2011 or so, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) had a page on its website listing the 100 titles on the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels List with those that had been challenged highlighted. Readers of the page missed the fine print and thought all of them had been challenged. So, while Winnie the Pooh is listed as #22 on the list of classics, no challenges have been recorded. The OIF revised the page so that the list now shows only the challenged titles on the Modern Library's original list - which is still 46 out of 100 titles.

The 2011 blog post from American Libraries (the introduction to which is available in a PDF copy of the AL Direct newsletter at the ALA Institutional Repository, while the content on American Libraries is no longer retrievable) listed possible reasons the Winnie the Pooh books might have been challenged. A  2013 BuzzFeed Books post offered several explanations as to why the book may have been banned the idea that talking animals might be offensive to some. Still, these have not been enough to include it in OIF's "frequently challenged books" listings.

The point of using the Radcliffe list is to show how many books considered to be classics have been challenged, reinforcing a statement made by Judith Krug, inaugural director of ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, in marking the 25th anniversary of Banned Books Week:

“People don’t challenge materials that don’t say something to the reader. If you look over the materials that have been challenged and banned over the years, they are the materials that speak to the condition of the human being, that try to illuminate the issues and concerns that affect human beings. They’re books that say something, and they’re books that have meaning to the reader. Innocuous materials are never challenged.” [“Marking 25 Years of Banned Books Week,” Curriculum Review 46, no. 1 (Sept. 2006)].

NCTE Rationales for Teaching Challenged Books list

Librarians are not the only ones who face challenges to their choices.  Teachers' choices of classroom reading are also challenged.  The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) offers advice to teachers. The NCTE Rationales list includes titles commonly taught in classrooms--and some of them are challenged.  The organization offers suggestions for developing a rationale for teaching a book and has a list of the titles for which there is already a rationale available.

Staff of the ALA Library have become aware of more than one listing of the combination of the NCTE list with the ALA "most frequently challenged list" (there is some overlap), presenting them all as having been challenged.