Texas leads nation in number of books banned in schools

Texas leads the nation in the number of books banned in schools, according to a PEN America report.

Two local libraries now encourage the reading of such books.

“We have been shocked and dismayed by the incredible increase in book bans in schools over the past year,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of PEN America’s Freedom of Speech and Education Programs.

A report released by PEN America, a nonprofit freedom of speech organization, shows that more than 140 districts across the country banned more than 2,500 books in the past school year. Texas has banned more than any other state, with 801 in 22 counties.

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“What’s been happening across the country is that any type of objection to any type of book will result in it being removed for everyone, sometimes on the fly,” Friedman said.

The data showed that books with protagonists of color dealing with racial issues and highlighting LGBTQ+ characters were being pulled from shelves.

“They’re meant to bring people together and be places where anyone can go to a public school library, any student, and find a book that reflects who they are and teaches them about other people and the wider world out there.” ‘ said Friedman.

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Parents, politicians and community members have challenged higher-rate books as Conservative lawmakers raise concerns about what students are being taught in schools. Friedman said books can be appealed, but strict processes should be followed before books are banned.

“Students have a first amendment right in schools, and the library is a place for voluntary research,” Friedman said.

The Austin Public Library and BookPeople encourage requests for banned books. They challenge everyone to read a banned book this month and win a prize.

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Austin resident Alyssa Johnson said she plans to read more than one this month.

“It’s really about expanding our awareness of other people’s experiences and specifically as necessary steps to dismantling dominance, toxic patriarchy and homophobia and to learn more about different communities and different people,” said Austin-based Alyssa Johnson.

PEN Austin, in partnership with the Austin Public Library Foundation, is hosting a community reading Wednesday night as part of Banned Book Week. It will feature local guides reading the books.

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