PEN America (Poets, Essayists, Novelists) reports that about 1,500 school book bans were in effect during the first semester of the current school year.
The group found that during the first half of the current school year, the category “banned pending investigation” accounted for 52% of all book bans.
While investigation times may vary by district, some schools have had to ban specific titles for months due to the length of the process. The American Library Association and the National Coalition Against Censorship have issued guidelines for handling challenges to books, and PEN America has argued that any restrictions that do not follow these guidelines are considered bans.
According to data released on Thursday, the organization revealed that 874 different books were targeted by 1,477 book bans in the first semester of the 2022-2023 school year. The free speech group discovered 1,149 book bans between January and June 2022.
PEN America said the number of book bans is unquestionably much higher than the number it assembled from publicly available data, despite the organization’s exhaustive analysis.
It categorized book restrictions into two broad categories: those that apply to schools and those that are used in libraries and classrooms.
Out of the nearly 900 books that were randomly selected, 44% dealt with violent themes, 38% focused on health and wellness, 30% dealt with death and grief, 30% addressed racism and featured characters of color, 26% featured LGBTQ themes and characters, 24% dealt with sexual experiences between characters, and 17% addressed teen pregnancy and abortion.
The perceived suitability of books for different age groups is a significant factor in the debate over book banning in the United States. Some Republicans have claimed that pornographic literature is available for students to read in classroom libraries.
Executive Director of PEN America Suzanne Nossel stated that politicians like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have tried to brush off the recent increase in book bans by calling it a ‘hoax.’ However, the people they claim to represent and support are not duped. The data don’t lie: there’s an all-out effort to limit kids’ reading freedom.
“Flamer,” “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” “Crank,” “Tricks,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel” are the top five novels that have been banned so far this school year.
If the titles are any indication, those books do not belong in kids’ schools.