20 September 2023
The American Library Association (ALA) says book bans and attempted bans continue to rise in the United States. The group notes that efforts now extend beyond schools to public libraries.
Through the first eight months of 2023, the ALA said there were 695 challenges to library materials and services, involving 1,915 books.
People have sought to remove books they consider offensive from school libraries for a long time. But this year, the challenges have been near-equally divided between schools and libraries open to the general public, the ALA said Wednesday.
Deborah Caldwell-Stone directs the association's Office for Intellectual Freedom. She said, "The irony is that you had some censors who said that those who didn't want books pulled from schools could just go to the public libraries."
The ALA defines a challenge as a "formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness."
Many of the challenges came from Moms for Liberty. The group has organized efforts nationwide and has called for more parental control over books available to children.
"There used to be a roughly one-to-one ratio, where a parent would complain about an individual book, like in the days when many were objecting to Harry Potter," Caldwell-Stone said. "Now you have people turning up at meetings and asking that 100 titles be removed."
Earlier this year, the Chicago-based association issued its yearly top 10 list of books most objected to in 2022. Many of them included racial and/or LGBTQ issues. Maia Kobabe's Gender Queer topped the list, followed by George Johnson's All Boys Aren't Blue and Nobel literature-prize winner Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye.
Teachers and librarians have been criticized a lot in 2023.
At Chapin High School in the state of South Carolina, some students said that a teacher made them feel "ashamed to be Caucasian." The teacher, they said, assigned them to read Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me. The book is an open letter to his son about police violence against Black people. It won the National Book Award in 2015. The school removed the book from the study program.
In Front Royal, Virginia, local officials are planning to cut money for the Samuels Public Library. The move follows complaints from conservatives about books about gay, lesbian and transgender issues.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds recently signed into law a bill that calls for books describing sex acts to be removed from school libraries.
The ALA's opposition to book bans has also led some communities to withdraw their membership or support, including Campbell County in Wyoming and a local library in Midland, Texas. Missouri officials announced the state would withdraw support from the ALA after new laws limiting young people's ability to get books considered unacceptable for children.
"I think this trend is going to continue," Caldwell-Stone said, "at least for as long these groups want to go after whole categories of books."
I'm Faith Pirlo.
Hillel Italie reported this story for the Associated Press. Hai Do adapted this report for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
challenge –n. to formally dispute whether something should or should not be done
irony –n. language used in a way that is different from its literal meaning and which the user finds funny
censor –n. a person who examines books, movies, and other media and removes things considered offensive or unacceptable by society
complaint –n. a statement of dissatisfaction with a condition or situation
ratio –n. the relationship that exists between one amount and another
title –n. literally the name of a book, but which is used as another word for a book itself
ashamed –adj. to feel bad or guilty about something you have done
trend –n. the general movement of change or development in an issue; something that is becoming more common
category –n. a number of similar things that are grouped together