Book bans in US schools and libraries surged to record highs in 2023 | Books

Book bans in US schools and libraries surged to record highs in 2023 | Books

More books were banned in 2023 in US schools and libraries than any other year for which records have been kept, the American Library Association (ALA) reported on Thursday.

Many of the books were targeted because they related to issues of LGBTQ+ communities or race, though the list was broad, including commonly taught novels such as Lord of the Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird.

The group documented 4,240 unique book titles targeted for censorship in 2023, which was more than the previous two years combined: 2,571 in 2022 and 1,651 in 2021. There was a 65% spike in 2023 over 2022.

It also recorded 1,247 documented demands to ban various library books, teaching materials, and other resources last year.

Emily Drabinski, the ALA president, called book bans “an attack on our freedom to read”.

“The books being targeted again focus on LGBTQ+ and people of color,” she said.

“Our communities and our country are stronger because of diversity. Libraries that reflect their communities’ diversity promote learning and empathy that some people want to hide or eliminate.”

The number of titles targeted for censorship also increased. The amount rose by 92% in public libraries and 11% at schools.

ALA said it will release the list of most commonly targeted books in April but some of the most challenged book titles in 2022 were Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M Johnson, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

The book ban movement has grown in recent years across the US, particularly in Republican-led states, as religious-political activism gains strength.

Seventeen states saw attempts to ban more than 100 books: Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

“Libraries are vital institutions to each and every community in this country, and library professionals, who have dedicated their lives to protecting our right to read, are facing threats to their employment and well-being,” Drabinski said.

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