Book banning is on the rise in America, as are the number of organized efforts by political advocacy organizations that essentially work to take away the right to read from millions of Americans, often without their knowledge or consent.
The American Library Association reports that in 2022, book banners attempted to restrict access to 1,651 titles. PEN America, a group that defends the rights of authors, poets and journalists, reported that from July 2021 to June 2022, in its index of school book bans, there were some 2,532 cases of individual books being banned, with 1,648 unique titles.
The ban affects the creative work of 1,553 people.
PEN America reports show that Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania are the top book banning states, with 801 bans in Texas last year, 566 in Florida and 457 in Pennsylvania. The report shows Minnesota with book ban numbers below 10.
While that’s good to know, even one book ban is too much. The St. Paul Public Library notes that nine titles, including “Huckleberry Finn,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and even “In the Night Kitchen,” a children’s book, were challenged or banned at some point in Minnesota. . Places that have banned or challenged the books include Duluth, New London-Spicer, St. Cloud, Henning and New Ulm Public Schools.
Banned books should never be an option in a democracy. There are no “two sides” to the book ban. Americans should be able to choose what they or their children will read.
Students have the right to access First Amendment books, information, and ideas in schools, and laws that restrict what can be read violate those rights. These rights are on solid footing with decisions from the United States Supreme Court that have ruled that students do not leave constitutional rights to the school steps.
The most disturbing part of the PEN report is that 40% of banned or challenged books have content with LGBTQ+ themes or people of color or books where people of color or LGBTQ+ are protagonists or main characters.
Book bans give unelected groups another way to impose their power on others. The PEN America report notes that these groups have grown significantly since 2021 and range from Facebook groups to more organized groups like Moms for Liberty, which has more than 200 chapters across the United States. The group’s website lists chapters in Olmsted, Dakota, Wright, and Ottertail counties in Minnesota.
The PEN report estimates that 20% of bans are directly linked to these groups.
And finally, the tolerance of book bans sends a global message to society that reading and the acquisition of knowledge must be controlled by the government or supposedly well-meaning citizens who demand bogeyman scenarios.
This is an idea that must be rejected, and the book ban must be challenged at all levels.
The second defense against tyranny is a well-informed and functioning democracy. The first defense is reading.