Nearly 1,700 Books Have Been Challenged In Libraries This Year

PEN America reported nearly 1,700 challenged books in schools across the nation, with the majority centering around LGBTQ+ themes.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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Book banning is hitting record levels in America. Most of the time, the movement focuses on restricting titles at the school level. During the last year, the American Library Association (ALA) reported receiving more challenged books than ever before, and today, that number is alarmingly high.

PEN America is a century-old activist organization with a mission to promote free expression in literature. A new report released by the nonprofit found that 1,648 unique book titles were banned from schools between July 2021 and June 2022. What’s more, the ALA recently noted that 2022 has already produced more challenged books than the entirety of 2021, still with more than three more months for that number to increase.

All of this comes at a time when more Republican state lawmakers have introduced legislation looking to ban content considered to be offensive from schools. The push for this often came from conservative activist groups such as Moms For Liberty. The nonprofit group pledged to fight for parental rights in education, with a major focus leaning on challenged books for being inappropriate. 

Many of the challenged books are said to contain pornographic content. Books like Gender Queer are being restricted in schools all across the nation, as some pages contain images illustrating oral sex. Opposers fear these books indoctrinate young minds and sexualize children at a far too young age.

While many would argue that the goal of these groups is just to rid libraries and schools of explicit material, PEN America’s report shows that only 22% of all challenged books in America were being restricted due to sexual content. The majority of book bans focused on LGBTQ+ themes. Almost half (41%) of the 1,648 titles being challenged focused on characters from the queer community.

On top of that, a startling 40% of challenged books centered around people of color. What’s more, 21% were prohibited in schools because of race and racism themes. Furthermore, 10% were restricted because of an activist theme, or that of religious minorities. 

Oftentimes, the titles being banned for racial topics were done so because objectors felt they promoted critical race theory in schools (CRT). Those opposed to this teaching allege that it places shame on white students by declaring that America is systemically racist. But to advocates that wish to see children learn about America’s racial history, it serves as a reminder that slavery was not that long ago, and reminds students that racism is still found in all walks of the nation. 

PEN America called the book banning movement “deeply undemocratic.” Likewise, First Lady Jill Biden recently spoke about challenged books in schools, asserting that all books belong in libraries. After all, many Americans feel that the decision to open a book should be left up to families, not politicians.

A Florida school district seemed to have a good compromise in making sure to protect parents’ rights and leaving the decision up to each individual family. Collier County Schools recently passed a measure requiring challenged books to be slapped with warning labels. In turn, parents were notified if their child checked out one of those novels.

challenged books

Americans are torn on whether or not the challenged book movement is unconstitutional, or necessary to protect students. With the number of titles being restricted perpetually increasing, the trend is quite troubling. Efforts and pushing back against this growing finding, but with 2023 just around the corner, more titles will likely continue to be questioned.