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U.S. Book Challenges Update

banned books map august 26

Book challenges and bans are increasing in libraries and schools throughout the United States. To help spread the word about these activities and efforts to combat them by librarians, parents, students, politicians, and concerned citizens, I Love Libraries will frequently highlight several stories on the current crisis. This roundup includes news from Iowa, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Iowa mothers to donate 'banned books' to students

A group of mothers in Johnston, Iowa, is working to get banned books back into the hands of local students, reports KCCI CBS 8 Des Moines.

Calling themselves Annie’s Foundation, the group was formed to ensure that members of the community have access to books with characters and subjects that reflect the diversity and complexity of the world around them. The group is starting with two books: And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

"We all as parents have parental choice in deciding what our children can read. But that's a choice I should make for my children and not for your children," said Annie’s Foundation founder, Sara Hayden Parris.

Oklahoma teacher quits after directing kids to banned books

A Norman (Okla.) High School English teacher resigned this week after providing her students with a QR code to access Brooklyn Public Library’s UnBanned program, which offers teenagers unlimited digital and audio access to banned or challenged books, reports The Daily Beast.

“I don’t feel like I can just go back into a classroom right now in this state and the environment we find ourselves in and do my job,” teacher Summer Boismier said.

Texas school librarian enraged over order to remove banned books display

Mary Wilson, a librarian at Belton (Texas) Middle School, said she was ordered last week to remove a display of "banned books" in the library’s entrance, reports Newsweek. She refused the request.

"I'm sitting here minding my own business the day before school starts and [the principal] comes in and tells me that I need to take down my Banned Books Week display that's in the library entrance because a parent called him and complained about it," Wilson said in a TikTok clip that went viral. The video has accumulated more than 1.3 million views.

"I'm mad because people want to take away books that largely feature marginalized people," she said.

Texas woman goes to police about a library book

A Katy (Texas) Independent School District police officer temporarily removed a copy of the book Flamer by Mike Curato from a high school library last month after a woman filed a criminal complaint alleging the district was providing “harmful” material to minors, reports the Houston Chronicle.

Flamer was deemed appropriate for high school students in the district after a formal review in March. However, parents and community members continued to speak out against the book at school board meetings, saying the descriptions of sex in the book constitute “pornography.”

Take action

Alarmed by the escalating attempts to censor books? Here are five steps you can take now to protect the freedom to read.

1. Follow news and social media in your community and state to keep apprised of organizations working to censor library or school materials.
2. Show up for library workers at school or library board meetings and speak as a library advocate and community stakeholder who supports a parent’s right to restrict reading materials for their own child but not for all
3. Help provide a safety net for library professionals as they defend intellectual freedom in their communities by giving to the LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund.
4. Educate friends, neighbors, and family members about censorship and how it harms communities. Share information from Banned Books Week 2021.
5. Join the Unite Against Book Bans movement to learn what you can do to defend the freedom to read in your community.

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