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 roundup includes news from Iowa, Florida, and New Jersey, as well as a look at the sports world’s reaction to bans on books about famed athletes.
Parents, lawmakers call for more restrictions on certain books in Iowa schools
Quad-City Times reports that parents and conservative activists said in a February 6 hearing with Iowa state lawmakers there should be more restrictions and parental permission required for books they found obscene and divisive. In the House Government Oversight committee meeting, the parents—many of whom are activists with the conservative group Moms for Liberty—read passages from books they found offensive. Almost all of the books dealt with LGBTQ characters and people of color. They also claimed that procedures that are in place to challenge the books in their local school districts are too difficult.
Ranking committee member Lindsay James (D-Dubuque) said being too quick to restrict a book could conflict with the rights of students and of parents who don’t object to the books presented at the meeting.
“What I am concerned with is upholding constitutional free speech for our children, making sure that your parental right to choose is upheld, and that, as a mom with children in my districts, in both elementary and middle school, that I would have the right to choose what my child would be exposed to,” she said.
Florida school district bans 23 books, with more under review
A Florida school district that covers 48 schools serving more than 50,000 students released on February 7 a list of books that will be banned from all of its school and classroom libraries, reports The New Republic.
St. John’s County Superintendent Tim Forson reviewed books that were objected to by parents and community members and unilaterally decided that some of the titles must be removed from school libraries. The list of 23 books includes All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, Forever by Judy Blume, a graphic novel version of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, adapted by Renee Nault, and the entire Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas. Forson noted that some other titles are to be “quarantined” away from libraries and media centers until a final decision is made.
Books to remain in New Jersey public library despite push from conservative group
Members of a conservative group were unsuccessful in their attempt to remove several books from a New Jersey public library, reports New Jersey Education Report.
Citizens Defending Education attempted to have six books removed from Glen Ridge (N.J.) Public Library, but the library’s board of trustees voted unanimously to keep the books in a February 8 meeting. According to its website, Citizens Defending Education is "seeking transparency and accountability on all issues involving the school district," with particular attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at area schools.
In the meeting, the board announced it had received 240 letters from community members and groups about the book ban attempt. More than 40 community members, leaders, librarians, educators, students, parents, elected officials, medical professionals, and LGBTQIA+ advocates spoke before the board, including the mother and aunts of author George M. Johnson, whose book All Boys Aren’t Blue was amongst the books under review. The other books in question were: Here and Queer by Rowan Ellis, This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson, It's Not the Stork by Robie H. Harris, It's Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris, and You Know, Sex by Cory Silverberg.
Sports world reacts to book bans
Duval County, Florida, has banned two children’s books on baseball legends: Henry Aaron’s Dream by Matt Tavares and Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates by Jonah Winter, reports The Comeback. Tavares responded to the news on Twitter.
The Comeback has collected tweets from sports journalists, athletes, and more reacting to the news. Here’s a selection:
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 to learn what you can do to defend the freedom to read in your community.