Censorship on rise in many parts of the country
Laurie Halse Anderson wrote, “Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.” It appears that the fear she was referring to is at an all-time high.
Attempted book bans and restrictions at school and public libraries continue to surge, setting a record in 2022, according to a new report from the American Library Association being released Thursday and reported on by The Associated Press.
More than 1,200 challenges were compiled by the association in 2022, nearly double the then-record total from 2021 and by far the most since the ALA began keeping data 20 years ago.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Deborah Caldwell-Stone, who directs the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “The last two years have been exhausting, frightening, outrage inducing.”
Thursday’s report not only documents the growing number of challenges, but also their changing nature. A few years ago, complaints usually arose with parents and other community members and referred to an individual book. Now, the requests are often for multiple removals, and organized by national groups such as the conservative Moms for Liberty, which has a mission of “unifying, educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government.”
Last year, more than 2,500 different books were objected to, compared to 1,858 in 2021 and just 566 in 2019. In numerous cases, hundreds of books were challenged in a single complaint. The ALA bases its findings on media accounts and voluntary reporting from libraries and acknowledges that the numbers might be far higher.
Librarians around the country have told of being harassed and threatened with violence or legal action.
“Every day professional librarians sit down with parents to thoughtfully determine what reading material is best suited for their child’s needs,” ALA President Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada said in a statement. “Now, many library workers face threats to their employment, their personal safety, and in some cases, threats of prosecution for providing books to youth they and their parents want to read.”
Caldwell-Stone says that some books have been targeted by liberals because of racist language — notably Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” — but the vast majority of complaints come from conservatives, directed at works with LGBTIQA+ or racial themes. They include Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer,” Jonathan Evison’s “Lawn Boy,” Angie Thomas’ “The Hate U Give” and a book-length edition of the “1619 Project,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning report from The New York Times on the legacy of slavery in the U.S.
It is our belief, regardless of which side of the aisle a person aligns themself with, that they do not have the right to decide what our children should be reading. And while we understand that some outdated concepts and ideas do appear in literature, that is a conversation best kept between a parent and their child.
To quote Sherman Alexie: “I believe in any kid’s ability to read any book and form their own judgments. It’s the job of a parent to guide his/her child through the reading of every book imaginable. Censorship of any form punishes curiosity.”