All Articles » U.S. Book Challenges Update: April 20 Edition

U.S. Book Challenges Update: April 20 Edition

banned books map March 10 edition

Libraries and schools across the country are experiencing unprecedented levels of attempts to ban or remove books from their shelves. I Love Libraries will continue to raise awareness by highlighting attempts to censor library materials, as well as efforts by librarians, parents, students, and concerned citizens to push back against them. This report includes news from Iowa, California, and Illinois, and words from an author speaking out against book bans in New Hampshire.

Five biggest book publishers in the U.S. sue Iowa over book ban law

Several publishing houses have joined bestselling authors and Penguin Random House in a federal lawsuit challenging an Iowa law that bans certain books in schools and limits teachings on sexual orientation and gender identity, reports CNN.

The law, SF 496, requires K-12 school libraries to only carry books deemed “age-appropriate,” and for libraries to exclude any book with “descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act.”

Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan Publishers, and Simon & Schuster will join a lawsuit originally filed in November.  Sourcebooks, majority-owned by Penguin Random House, also joined the suit.

“We as publishers are uniting in our unwavering commitment to stand with educators, librarians, students, authors, and readers against the unconstitutional censorship measures being imposed by the state of Iowa,” the publishers said in a joint statement. “The alarming rise of book bans across the country demands our collective action. Now, more than ever, we must stand firmly with our authors and readers to defend the fundamental right to read and the freedom of expression.”

California lawmakers reject bill to let parents sue schools that don’t ban ‘harmful’ books

California lawmakers have voted down a bill that would school boards to ban books with “harmful material” from libraries and classrooms and give parents the ability to sue those that did not comply, reports the Sacramento Bee.

On April 17, the state’s Senate Education Committee did not advance Senate Bill 1435 from Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, R-Yucaipa. The bill would have applied to preschools, transitional kindergartens, kindergartens, and grades one through eight and would require school boards to ban books with content considered “harmful” under California Penal Code 313, which prohibits the material from being distributed to children.

Bill opponents called it an “overreach in what the law is” and a “form of censorship.” During an exchange with Ochoa Bogh, Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas, D-Los Angeles, said she does not “need the state’s guidance to tell me how I feel about what my children are doing.”

In Superman's 'hometown,' a pastor vows to fight Satan's influence at the local library

A pastor in Metropolis, Illinois, told his congregants that Satan was planning an assault on the small town, starting at the town library, reports Mike Hixenbaugh for NBC News.

Brian Anderson told his congregation at Eastland Life Church about the upcoming "conflict" in January, days before a public meeting was scheduled at the library. Anderson said that Christians needed to make their voices heard, otherwise the library would soon resemble a scene “straight out of Sodom and Gomorrah.”

“During his sermon in January and in the months since, Anderson has cast his congregation and their God as righteous defenders of Metropolis — and the Library Bill of Rights and its supporters as forces of evil,” Hixenbaugh wrote.

The pastor’s call to action has ignited a bitter fight that some locals have described as “a battle for the soul” of the town. It has pitted the city’s mayor, himself a member of Eastland Life Church, against the library board of trustees and has led to the dismissal of the library director, who accused the board of punishing her for her faith. The state’s Democratic secretary of state said the events in Metropolis “should frighten and insult all Americans who believe in the freedom of speech and in our democracy.”

Jodi Picoult speaks out against book bans in her home state

Author Jodi Picoult is speaking out against a New Hampshire law that would give state officials more say in which books are appropriate for students, reports New Hampshire Public Radio.

The New Hampshire State Senate passed SB 523 by a Republican majority earlier this month. It would allow parents to appeal their book complaints to the State Board of Education.

The bill caught the attention of New Hampshire-based Picoult, who has been an outspoken critic of book bans across the country. Her books have been removed from school library shelves in Florida, Iowa, and South Carolina, and challenged in more states, including New Hampshire.

“We know that there's so many proven studies that literature provides an escape for kids who need it, who are in restrictive situations,” Picoult said. “We know that it provides mirrors to kids who need to see themselves represented in other forms of media to know that they're not alone, they're not the only one who feels like this. And when you start removing those books from a school library, you are not protecting children. You are preventing them from having tools to survive in an increasingly complex world.”

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.
    5. Join the Unite Against Book Bans movement and visit our Fight Censorship page to learn what you can do to defend the freedom to read in your community.

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