2021 saw more challenged, banned books in libraries than ever before

*NOTE: This is a stock photo.
*NOTE: This is a stock photo.(MGN)
Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 3:30 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - More books are being banned from America’s libraries. KSLA′s Kori Johnson is looking into the impact this is having on school districts in the ArkLaTex.

The American Library Association (ALA) says it tracked nearly 1,600 book challenges or removals in 2021… the most ever recorded. Each year, the association comes out with a list of the top ten books that fall on this list. Among the novels on the 2022 list are All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson for its LGBTQIA+ content, profanity, and because it’s considered sexually explicit, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas because it’s thought to promote an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda, and Toni Morrison’s classic, The Bluest Eye, because it depicts child sexual abuse.

As kids head back to school, officials say the numbers are anticipated to increase.

“Individuals approach school boards and ask for books to be removed from the library, or they’re looking at course syllabus and they’re asking for books to be removed. We’ll see an increase in activity as we get closer to September,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and executive director of the Freedom to Read Foundation.

Caldwell-Stone says in 22 years of working with the ALA, she has never encountered this many book challenges. According to the latest available data, ALA tracked a record-breaking 729 challenges in 2021. Eighty-two percent of them were books, graphic novels, and textbooks. Of those who challenge books nationwide, 39% are parents, while 18% are board or administration leaders.

According to ALA, between 2021 and 2022 so far, 20 reports have been documented for requests for book challenges. There have been 14 in Arkansas, 144 in Texas, and 20 in Louisiana.

“When you engage in these book bans, you’re denying access to that information and you may even be sending a message of exclusion. When you target books that deal with gender identity and sexual orientation and take them off the shelf, you’re telling gay, queer, and transgender students who attend that school that they don’t belong in that community and the same for books that deal with the experience of African Americans and their experience of racism in our society,” Caldwell-Stone said.

But not everyone agrees that banning books is detrimental. Groups like Moms for Liberty frequently challenge books, according to Caldwell-Stone. This particular non-profit group, which is founded by former school board members, aims to unify, educate, and empower parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government. KSLA reached out to multiple chapters of Moms for Liberty for comment on the subject of book banning and challenging, but has not received a reply as of the publication of this article.

Banning books is a highly contentious topic. KSLA posted on Facebook to find out what people in the ArkLaTex think about banned and challenged books, and the impact removing them from libraries could have on students and other readers.

Erica Beleau said, “Of course, it limits their perspective and knowledge.”

Jack Floresheim commented, “Books are for nerds, they should all be banned.”

And Joseph Griffith said, “It depends on the book.”

📚 SOUND OFF 📢 Do you think the banning of some books in schools has negative consequences on students? Tell us why below.

Posted by KSLA News 12 on Tuesday, August 23, 2022

KSLA also checked in locally with staff at Shreve Memorial Library. Despite the national numbers, staff there say they haven’t seen an increase of book challenges over the last few years at their branches.

“The library belief, they’re places for everyone. So we don’t take the decision to remove a book very lightly, so there is a process in place for people if they want to go through and challenge books,” said Samantha Bonnette, marketing and digital manager for Shreve Memorial Library.

Caldwell-Stone says the future of book banning, challenging books, and censorship could have serious implications for student readers moving forward.

“These are community institutions that are intended to expand the possibility to learn, to grow, to think for one’s self,” she said.

For more information on the complete list of banned books each year, click here.

KSLA reached out to local school districts to see if they are planning on banning any books in libraries this year.

Caddo Parish Public Schools responded with a statement saying, “Caddo is committed to providing students access to age-appropriate books on wide-ranging topics across centuries of works. In that commitment, the district also recognizes parents or guardians may express concerns with some material and alternative text is available to meet the requirements of a learning unit while respecting the wishes of students and families. While the district has not banned any books, Caddo has reviewed texts to ensure alignment with state standards.”