New report details a 'growing movement' to censor books in schools

A new report released today from Pen America says more books are being challenged and banned across the United States — and its authors issue a strong warning to take the organized movement behind these bans seriously. 

The book bans “reflect the work of a growing number of advocacy organizations that have made demanding censorship of certain books and ideas in schools part of their mission.” 

The report concludes with a warning: 

“Against the backdrop of other efforts to roll back civil liberties and erode democratic norms, the dynamics surrounding school book bans are a canary in the coal mine for the future of American democracy, public education, and free expression. We should heed this warning.”


Findings 

According to the report, released today on the first day of Banned Books Week 2022: 

 

  • PEN America has identified at least 50 groups involved in pushing for book bans at the national, state, or local levels. This includes eight groups that have among them at least 300 local or regional chapters.
  • A parallel but connected movement is also targeting public libraries, with calls to ban books; efforts to intimidate, harass, or fire librarians; and even attempts to suspend or defund entire libraries.
  • From July 2021 to June 2022, PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans lists 2,532 instances of individual books being banned, affecting 1,648 unique book titles.
  • The 1,648 titles are by 1,261 different authors, 290 illustrators, and 18 translators, impacting the literary, scholarly, and creative work of 1,553 people altogether.

Fight back

A tip sheet for librarians facing harassment 

 A tip sheet for students to fight book bans

Celebrate the freedom to read during Banned Books Week 

United Against Book Bans: On both sides of the aisle, large majorities of voters and parents oppose book bans.”

Read the full report:  “Banned: USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools”  

Rural libraries and books challenges

The Association for Rural and Small Libraries took on the issue of censorship last week during its convention in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

The Rural Assembly’s Whitney Kimball Coe joined librarian and activist Connie Behe and New York Times best-selling author Aisha Saeed for a session —“Up to the Challenge: Facing Censorship Head-On.”  The three talked about defending intellectual freedom within our own libraries, how to stay in relationship with our neighbors, and how to encourage discoverability of books.

During the talk, Coe pointed out that rural is a pluralistic place — and that efforts to censor reading are about diverting resources from public education and other projects. 

Earlier this year, Coe wrote about her own community’s encounter with a book challenge of the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman, a controversy that gained national attention.  

Listen to the podcast episode of Everywhere Radio featuring Coe and fellow community members in conversation about the Maus ban and how it united them as a community to fight back.

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