A little over a year ago, I wrote about the disturbing rise of book banning. Unfortunately, the trend has continued. An updated PEN America report shows 1,477 instances of individual books banned, affecting 874 titles, in the first half of the 2022-2023 school year. Book banners are most focused on stories by and about people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals, according to the report.
Making matters worse, some states have passed laws that aim to block content they don’t like from sitting on the shelves of public-school libraries. Also, parent-led groups have pressured districts to remove books without following their own policies and even without reading them, according to PEN America.
Despite this depressing news, there are positive developments. Polls continue to show that Americans aren’t as thrilled about book bans as Republican politicians want us to believe. Last year, a CBS News poll revealed that Americans “overwhelmingly” reject the idea of book banning about history or race. An American Library Association poll showed that 71% of voters oppose efforts to ban books from public libraries. Both polls reflected majority support among Democrats, Independents, and Republicans.
Recently, a Fox News poll revealed that 60% of voters, including 70% of Democrats and roughly half of Republicans, view book banning as a “major problem” in schools. A new Michigan Library Association poll of 800 Michigan voters found that 83% of respondents would support laws that would protect the public’s right to read what they choose in libraries without having books banned.
This brings us to the other positive development. States are now taking action to prevent book banning. A bill in Illinois, the first of its kind, would require libraries to adopt anti-censorship policies and deny funding to libraries that ban books. Having already passed the two state legislative chambers in May, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign this historic bill shortly.
California’s state government is also moving swiftly to turn the tide against book bans. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta, and State Superintendent Tony Thurmond warned in a letter to educators on Thursday that removing books “may constitute unlawful discrimination.” According to a press release, the letter also directs administrators to legal mandates that schools must follow to “preserve freedom and ensure access to diverse perspectives and curricula.”
These positive developments are not going unnoticed by President Joe Biden. In fact, Biden has been including mention of GOP-led book bans in his early reelection campaigning, attempting to capitalize on their lack of popularity while tying it all to MAGA extremism, according to a report from Axios. Republicans can continue to pursue book-banning folly at their own political peril.