Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani is speaking out after her company's book series was banned from a Pennsylvania school district.
The books were just added to PEN America's Index of School Book Bans, a list of restricted literature around the country.
"This is about controlling women and it starts with controlling our girls and what info 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 a news alert hit her phone — her company's book series had been placed on a list of banned books in schools.
The series, which chronicles a group of young girls and their adventures as part of a coding club at their school, was just added to PEN America's Index of School Book Bans, a comprehensive, nationwide list of restricted literature. The index is updated annually by the organization, which advocates protecting free expression through the advancement 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 info they have access to."
The Girls Who Code books were banned specifically by Pennsylvania's Central York School District, located in a critical political swing region where Saujani said the organization has an active club. But 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 material.
"In some ways we know that book banning has been an extreme political tool by the right — banning books to protect our kids from things that are 'obscene' or 'provocative' — but there is nothing obscene or provocative about these books," she told Insider.
Moms for Liberty did not immediately respond to Insider's request to comment on the ban.
The books were joined by other recent additions to the list — several of which tackle racial, women's, and LGBTQ+ rights issues — including "The Handmaid's Tale," "Speak," and "Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic."
"We use these stories to teach kids to code," she said. "It felt very much like a direct attack on the movement we've been building to get girls coding. Especially in districts that don't have the technology or have disparate Wi-Fi, books are a great way to learn to code and a way to equalize access to coding."
Saujani added that removing the books not only hinders visibility for women in technology fields, but also diversity in the industry, as many of the protagonists in the series are young girls of color.
"You cannot be what you cannot 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 — joined Saujani in speaking out about the ban.
"Yep. I've been banned. Because some people choose not to focus on how awesome and empowering and inspiring these books are but instead choose fear," Whittemore wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
Since learning of the ban, Saujani said she has reached out to the Central York School District president and several teachers in the area to understand why the books ended up on the list and to get the series back into schools.
The Central York School District did not immediately respond to Insider's request to comment.
"This is an opportunity to realize how big this movement is against our kids and how much we need to fight," Saujani told Insider. "This is opportunity to start more clubs, get more girls to code, and get more girls to become economically free."
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