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- Free speech group PEN America released a report Thursday on the current book bans and restrictions in the United States.
- There are currently 1,586 book bans or restrictions in place across the country, the report found.
- The majority of the books banned have to do with race, gender or sexual identity.
There has been an “alarming” surge in book censorship in the United States since last year totaling 1,586 book bans or restrictions in place, according to the director of PEN America, a nonprofit focusing on free speech and literature.
A new report from PEN America found that those book bans and restrictions are taking place in 86 school districts across 26 states.
The first-of-its kind report breaks down a PEN America analysis of all 1,586 book bans or restrictions to capture the extent of the censorship taking place in schools.
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One of the biggest takeaways of the analysis is that the same types of books are being censored or removed from classrooms and school libraries: books on race, gender, sex, and LGBTQ identities.
“This is an orchestrated attack on books whose subjects only recently gained a foothold on school library shelves and in classrooms,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of PEN America’s Free Expression and Education program and lead author of the report. “We are witnessing the erasure of topics that only recently represented progress toward inclusion.”
Texas came in first as the state with the largest number of book bans at 713, followed by Pennsylvania with a striking 456 bans, Florida with 204, Oklahoma with 43, Kansas with 30 and Tennessee with 16, according to the report.
Last November, Texas Gov. Greg Abbot directed state agencies to come up with measures to remove books with “pornography” and “other obscene content” from school libraries. A Pennsylvania county school board banned a lengthy list of books last year made up almost completely of work by or about people of color, and recently Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis enacted legislation to require school libraries to seek community input on the materials they have available to children.
“Parents and community members deserve a voice in shaping what is taught in our schools,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America. “But the embrace of book bans as a weapon to ward off narratives that are seen as threatening represents a troubling retreat from America’s historic commitment to the First Amendment rights of students, and to reacting to speech considered objectionable with more speech, rather than censorious prohibitions.”
The book bans have targeted 1,145 individual books by 874 different authors and impact a combined 2 million students in 2,899 schools, the report notes.
Out of those individual books banned, 22 percent address issues of race or racism and 33 percent address LGBTQ themes, the report found. And while the majority of the books banned or restricted are works of fiction, 16 percent of the books being restricted are history books or biographies including some about Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Sonia Sotomayor, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Malala Yousafzai.
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