More than 1,600 books were banned in US school districts in one year – and the number is growing

The number of books banned in US school districts is on the rise. a new report from the American PEN Center found. Between July 2021 and June 2022, books were banned 2,532 times from US public schools, according to the free speech nonprofit.

The US PEN says 1,648 unique book titles were banned during that period. In between July 2021 and March 2022. PEN tracked 1,586 book bans. Since this report was published in April, a further 275 book bans have been recorded between April and June 2022.

Many of the books — 41% — that were banned included LGBTQ themes, main characters, or prominent supporting characters. A whopping 40% of those banned included people of color. Books on race and racism (21%) and books on rights and activism (10%) were also among those banned. About 22% of the banned books had sexual content. Biographies, autobiographies and stories about religious minorities are also on the list of banned books.

There are several reasons why books may be banned from schools and libraries. Last year, dozens of Republican state legislators introduced bills banning the content they found it offensive in schools.

The PEN Club of America estimates that at least 40% of book bans involve either legislation, “or political pressure from government officials or elected legislators to restrict the teaching or presence of certain books or concepts.”

The US PEN also identified at least 50 groups, many with local or regional chapters, that they said played a role in at least 50% of the book bans imposed across the country in the 2021-2022 school year.

Under the law, which targets content with themes of race and sexuality, and companies of public representatives, schools may feel pressure to remove books from their classrooms and libraries.

The American Library Association (ALA) keeps track of frequently banned books, and some titles are extremely popular — like the Harry Potter series, which was in the top 10 most banned books of 2019. This series was banned for “references to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters using ‘nefarious means’ to achieve their goals.” pursuant to the ALA.

Most books, however, are banned because they include topics about race or sexuality.

Some states ban books that include racial themes by using the term “critical race theory” in their legislation. Critical race theory is most often taught in colleges or law schools recognizes racial differences preserved in US history and enshrined in US law and institutions.

While there is there is no evidence that critical race theory taught in K-12 schools, it is often used as a blanket term in state law, including Texas, as a way to limit discussions of race in the classroom.

Books that include themes of sexuality, such as “Gender Queer,” are often considered “obscene” and “pornographic” by people who want to ban them, according to a PEN America report.

Gender Queer, the most banned book according to PEN America, is written by Maya Kobabe and is described by the publisher as a “helpful and poignant guide to gender identity.”

Deborah Stone, ALA’s director of intellectual freedom, told CBS News last year that books “that reflect the lives of LGBTQI people and families” provide important representation.

“You may not be the audience, your child may not be the audience, but most of the time there is an audience for books, and often times they are very necessary,” she said.

The US PEN said there is evidence that efforts to ban the books are continuing into the 2022-2023 school year, with at least 139 additional bans taking effect since July 2022.

“This book ban movement is profoundly undemocratic because it often seeks to impose restrictions on all students and families based on the preferences of those calling for the ban, and despite polls that consistently show that Americans of all political persuasions oppose the book ban“, the American PEN said, citing a CBS News poll that found more than 8 in 10 Americans don’t think books should be banned from schools for discussing race and criticizing U.S. history, for depicting slavery in the past or, in more in a broad sense, for political reasons, ideas with which they do not agree.

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