“I should say, it doesn’t stop with just banning books. What we’re seeing across the country is they’re banning voices, modern voices, librarians, teachers,” said Patrick Stewart, CEO of the San Diego Public Library Foundation. “It’s gone beyond just the banning of a book, or a certain piece of literature or textbook.”
Stewart joined San Diego Public Library director Misty Jones on Midday Edition Monday to talk about their reaction to the report’s findings.
“It’s disheartening,” Jones said. “It is seeing just the increase in the number not only of challenges, but the extent and the links to what people are going for, these challenges going before school boards, the personal attacks on librarians and teachers for doing their job.”
Many of the books being targeted involve topics on race and sexuality.
From religious texts and anti-slavery novels to modern works removed from school libraries, here’s how the targets of censorship have changed over the years.
By Erin Blakemore, Published September 6, 2022
Mark Twain. Harriet Beecher Stowe. Judy Blume. William Shakespeare. These names share something more than a legacy of classic literature and a place on school curriculums: They’re just some of the many authors whose work has been banned from classrooms over the years for content deemed controversial, obscene, or otherwise objectionable by authorities.
Book challenges, restrictions, and outright bans on materials in K-12 classrooms and school libraries are popping up more and more across the country these days.
Though such challenges are a perennial problem, school districts have seen an uptick in requests to ban books about LGBTQ characters, race, and racism. A PEN America report found that 2 million students in 86 school districts across the country have had their access to books restricted this past school year. And the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom is now getting reports of at least two—and sometimes three or four—book challenges a day, when in the past they would get that many cases per week, said the office’s director, Deborah Caldwell-Stone.
Some educators have been successful in overturning such efforts by supporting students eager to push back, a balancing act requiring them to observe constitutional boundaries about student protests and First Amendment rights. Yet many now teach in states where pushback to book challenges can be even trickier, thanks to new laws that more broadly restrict how topics such as race and gender are discussed in school.
The American Library Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and more than two dozen other organizations on Tuesday formed a coalition to fight the far-right’s record-breaking censorship barrage—wherein nearly 1,600 books were targeted for removal from public shelves and schools across the United States in 2021.
The goal of Unite Against Book Bans—which also includes the Authors Guild and prominent publishers such as Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster—is “to empower individuals and communities to fight censorship and protect the freedom to read,” according to the ALA.
“This is a dangerous time for readers and the public servants who provide access to reading materials,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said in a statement. “Readers, particularly students, are losing access to critical information, and librarians and teachers are under attack for doing their jobs.”