Book challenges and bans have been sweeping the nation at an alarming rate over the past two years. With the release of the American Library Association’s State of America’s Libraries Report yesterday, we now have an equally alarming set of data about the bans. In 2021 there were 729 challenges covering 1,597 books. It is the most book challenges since the ALA began its survey twenty years ago and a fourfold increase since last year.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has taken notice, and the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties will be holding a hearing this Thursday, 7, at 10 am Eastern. The aim is to examine the “ideologically motivated organizations and legislators . . . leading campaigns to remove books from schools and public libraries.” The session, titled “Speech Under Attack: Book Bans and Academic Censorship,” will host students, librarians, teachers, administrators, and parents. A live stream will be available during the hearing.
Below is the press release from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Apr 4, 2022 Press Release
Washington D.C. (April 4, 2022)—On Thursday, April 7, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. ET, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, will hold a hearing to examine the ongoing efforts across the country to ban books from schools and public libraries.
Book challenges and bans are rising at unprecedented rates, with ideologically motivated organizations and legislators in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Indiana, and other states leading campaigns to remove books from schools and public libraries. In 2021, the American Library Association (ALA) recorded 729 challenges to remove nearly 1,600 books from school and public libraries—the highest number of attempted book bans in the 20 years that the ALA has tracked this data. Meanwhile, some school administrators are preemptively removing library books out of fear.
Books being challenged or banned include those that discuss racial equity, have minorities as protagonists, address LGBTQ+ issues, or have Black or LGBTQ+ authors. Many of these texts help children and young adults to recognize differences and respect the humanity of others rather than to stigmatize and shun people who are different than themselves. However, some right-wing groups and media outlets have pushed false narratives to justify educational censorship aimed at controlling and chilling free speech. These groups assert they are only challenging books that are “divisive” or “indoctrinate” students, but in reality are trying to ban books like Ruby Bridges Goes to School, Beloved,Families, Families, Families!, and Maus.
Studies have shown that not only do students benefit from learning experiences that utilize and highlight diversity, but that removing books about LGBTQ+ experiences from schools further stigmatizes and isolates LGBTQ+ students who are already more likely to suffer depression and consider suicide. These bans are unpopular among most Americans, and three out of every four public-school parents believe that books should be available in school libraries on an age-appropriate basis.
The current efforts to ban books are part of a broader attack on free speech in the classroom that amounts to educational censorship. Combatting these efforts is paramount to protecting the First Amendment rights of students and teachers, and preserving free speech in America.
CBLDF and its partners have been battling ongoing and organized attempts to censor comics and other books in schools and libraries. You can join the struggle by making a donation or reporting censorship today!