UC Berkeley students combat K-12 book bans by creating their own children’s books

January 29, 2024

As the battle to control what students read continues in K-12 schools across the country, policies backed by U.S. legislators have contributed to a recent rise in the banning of books that include the history and experiences of people of color.   

Those stories, historically, have been left out of American history books, said UC Berkeley lecturer and anthropologist Pablo Gonzalez, so it’s important to combat that exclusion now more than ever.  

And Gonzalez is doing just that, having found an innovative and engaging way for his students to help stop the erasure of history.     

By writing and illustrating their own children’s books. 

Students from Gonzalez’s Introduction to Chicano History course spent the fall semester researching Chicanx history, centering their scholarship on the experiences and historical contributions of Chicanx women and the marginalized communities they come from. 

These included labor and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, who, with Cesar Chavez, co-founded the United Farm Workers Association, and the 1969 Third World Liberation Front Strike, a movement that led to the nation’s first ethnic studies college programs.    

Students then used those histories to produce original narratives and illustrations in storybook form for elementary grade students. Those books are currently accessible in digital form, said Gonzalez, and hard copies will be published for distribution to states and school districts where this history is openly banned.   

"We want to be intentional about sending them out as a package to schools in places where these books, in a sense, have been deemed to be contraband by state officials," said Gonzalez, who is also a Berkeley alumnus. "In this political climate, where the erasure of Chicanx and Latinx stories in schools is literally being discussed in halls of power, we need more access to stories that center this history."

Lecturer wearing a Cal vest speaking to students while sitting at tables with students and their laptops

UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies Continuing Lecturer Pablo Gonzalez works with his students on their children's books in Wheeler Hall.
Brandon Sánchez Mejia/UC Berkeley