Written by Maya Potiger for Word in Black

A new report from the PEN Club of America shows that 41% of banned books have main characters or prominent supporting characters of color, and 22% deal with race or racism.

From bills banning Nicole Hannah-Jones’ Project 1619 to Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye being pulled from shelves, book bans are on the rise in the United States unprecedented rates. Over the past two years, most of the bans have focused on books about LGBTQ+ experiences and race in America.

And the spate of book bans shows no sign of abating. This year has already marked a record number of target books — 1,651 unique titles from January 2022 to August 2022, reports new report American Library Association. That surpasses the 2021 record of 1,597 banned names, which was the most challenges or bans the ALA has seen in more than 20 years of tracking.

Banning books equates to wanting to control a system of thought, be it for certain people, issues or ideas, says Dr. Frederick Ingramsecretary-treasurer of St American Federation of Teachers. This is unfair to young people and creates an uneducated population which is not conducive to democracy.

They can no longer teach books that have been taught in English classes for years.

Dr. FREDERICK INGRAM, SECRETARY-COUNSEL, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS

“Our public schools and libraries must be protected,” Ingraham says. “We need to increase access to universal books and give our students a comprehensive view of the world and their history and who they can really become by reading everything, so that they become independent thinkers.”

AFT’s Reading opens up the world the company is helping to create greater access to books by distributing 1 million books across the country. The ongoing bans have not affected the company but are having a “chilling effect” on teachers. Ingram mentioned classics like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Of Mice and Men,” classics that are now banned in some states.

“There have been laws passed that force teachers to chase them,” Ingraham says. “They can no longer teach books that have been taught in English classes for years.”

What books are banned?

The American Library Association isn’t the only group that tracks book bans. PEN Americaan organization dedicated to the protection of freedom of speech created a database book bans in libraries and classrooms from July 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022. During these nine months, the organization counted 1,586 bans against 874 authors and 1,145 books.

These prohibitions of coverage 86 school districts in 26 states, serving 2,899 schools and over 2 million students.

Of the banned titles, according to the report, 72% are fiction, 47% are classified as YA novels, and 18% are children’s picture books. And the content of the books in this database reflects attacks across the country on books that discuss race and racism, LGBTQ topics, and sexual publications.

In the database, 41% of banned books have main characters or prominent supporting characters of color, and 22% directly address race and racism, the report said. Not only fiction is also prohibited. The American PEN found that 16% of the banned books were books on history or biography, and 9% were about rights and activism.

LGBT Memoirs”Gender queer” tops the list with 30 bans during that time period, followed by George M. Johnson’s Black Strange Autobiographical Essays “All boys are not blue» with 21 prohibitions. From the American PEN database, only six books have received more than 10 bans, and four of them are related to race.

Three prominent black authors in the children’s and young adult space—Jason Reynolds, Angie Thomas, and Jerry Kraft—are no newbies to book banning. Thomas and Reynolds are regular members of the American Library Association annual Top 10 list the most disputed books. And despite writing the first graphic novel to win a Newbery Award, Kraft’s New Kid received contested claims of upholding critical race theory.

The National Council of Teachers of English created a database prohibited books and suggestions help for teachers who need to write formal “justification” to be able to teach books. However, you must be an NCTE member to view them.

“Students have a the right to read the material they are interested in,” he says Emily Kirkpatrick, Executive Director, NCTE. She says this year’s recognition of Banned Books Week “is a reminder to everyone to remain vigilant, to continue to restore access to all kinds of material that interests students and, more broadly, readers of all ages. »

How do these bans affect schools?

Despite the widely publicized bans, the books by Reynolds, Thomas, and Kraft remain popular among teachers. From the 2020-2021 school year to the 2021-2022 school year, all three authors saw a large increase in requests for their books through DonorsChoose. Kraft books are up 58%, Reynolds books are up 29%, and Thomas books are up 20%.

DonorsChoose works with schools and districts across the country, classifying them as “equity focus” and “non-equity focus”. It defines equity-focused schools as those in which at least 50% of students are Black, Latino, American Indian, Pacific Islander, or multiracial, and at least 50% of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch .

In the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years, there were nearly equal numbers of requests for these books from both equity-oriented schools and non-equity-oriented schools, with only about 300 more requests from equity-oriented schools each year.

Requests for these books in the 2021-2022 academic year at non-stock schools increased slightly, with requests jumping by 13%. But at equity-oriented schools, the number of requests for books by these authors increased by 55%.

In particular, crafts have increased significantly by “New baby” every year, showing that trying to ban a book can popularize it. His book grew 213% through DonorsChoose from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021 after headlines he did after his virtual speech at a Texas school was canceled because parents claimed his book supported critical race theory.

While book bans are common counterproductive because they are increasing sales books, this does not apply to all authors of banned books. Breanna McDaniel’s 2019 text “Hands up!” — a picture book for children — has been banned or challenged in several states. As a result, sales of her book fell, McDaniel says.

“People are very sensitive about messages to very young children,” says McDaniel, also the nonprofit’s program manager. We need different books. “Because picture books are aimed at this audience, picture books are frowned upon.”

Book bans Send message

There are many consequences of banning books from schools and libraries. One lacks “certified classics,” Ingraham says, including books Pulitzer Prize winners and others that have stood the test of time. In order for people to formulate their own ideas, Ingram says, they need to have access to the whole story.

“Unfortunately, our students are not being fully served by our schools, our libraries, our curriculum, and unfortunately, their own knowledge,” Ingram says. “These are things that don’t bode well for the educated population in this democracy as they try to make it a fairer game.”

In this day and age, banning a physical book in a physical location goes a long way. Books can be purchased, accessed online, or borrowed from another library. But the ban still sends a message to students.

U a recent Reader’s Digest interviewAbram X. Kennedy, author of the often-banned or contested book How to Be Anti-Racist, said that books that challenge notions of black inferiority are considered edification, while books that say nothing about black people or reinforce notions of black inferiority are considered education.

This message of inferiority means that black and brown students see, hear, and feel the impact more than their peers.

“It’s unfortunate because we live in a society where black and brown students are already dealing with overt racism, they’re already dealing with politicians talking about their home country, and they’re dealing with all the cynical kinds of politics that we we see “, Ingram says.

NCTE launched a campaign in May 2022 called This story matters to help fight the ongoing censorship because it says something “very dramatic and very disturbing” about the storylines that are banned, Kirkpatrick says.

“When students identify with a storyline or a character, the main message that’s been conveyed is that you don’t matter,” says Kirkpatrick.

When students identify with a storyline or character, the main message conveyed is that you don’t matter

EMILY KIRKPATRICK, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF TEACHERS OF ENGLISH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

McDaniel echoes what Dr. Rudin Sims Bishop, the “mother” of multicultural children’s literature, wrote in 1990.

“Books are sometimes windows into worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange,” wrote Sims Bishop. “These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers need only step through them in their imagination to become part of the world that the author has created and recreated. However, if the lighting conditions are necessary, the window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms the human experience and reflects it back to us, and in this reflection we can see our lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience.’

“For everyone, especially people who don’t always have the opportunity to explore what they feel, books provide those windows,” says McDaniel, “just as they provide the mirrors and sliding glass doors that Dr. Rudin Sims Bishop taught us about when it comes to these conversations.”

And having classroom politicians telling teachers what they can teach and what books are acceptable has dangerous consequences. That’s why AFT distributes books and helps open more libraries to give students “a full spectrum of education…so they can better lead society.”

“If we attack our public schools and our classrooms,” Ingram says, “it will jeopardize what we know as democracy for years to come.”

This article was first published on The word is in black

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