Banned Books Week highlights growing challenges to reading materials in schools: 'Let Freedom Read'

ByKiara Alfonseca, ABC News WTVD logo
Friday, October 6, 2023
Triangle educators, book sellers fight back against book-banning
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New numbers show the effort to ban books across the country continues to grow.

Between January 1 and August 31 of this year, 695 attempts to censor library materials and services and documented challenges to 1,915 unique titles were tracked by the American Library Association's (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom.

The news comes as 'Banned Books Week' gains more traction even in states where banning books is growing, like Florida.

The practice of banning books shows no signs of slowing down as more politicians have made it a part of their campaign agendas. It's also facing more and more backlash. This year's theme for the week is "Let Freedom Read."

Across the country, a generation of young readers is standing up against efforts to ban or restrict certain books in schools and libraries, ABC News reports.

Student-led banned book clubs and anti-censorship groups have been popping up in states where a conservative-led movement to remove certain books or lessons has led to boisterous board meetings, protests, and more. The students behind these groups say they have long been left out of the conversation, despite being the most impacted by such restrictions.

"I thought it would be perfect to do a banned book club -- one: as just a way to read beautiful literature that's important and should be read and then two: kind of as an act of resistance," said 16-year-old Iris Mogul who recently started a banned book club in Miami, Florida.

In Florida, there were 22 attempts targeting 194 titles in the first eight months of the year, according to the ALA. Books that touch on subjects like race and the LGBTQ community have made up the majority of book-banning attempts. In many cases, these books also touch on discrimination and oppression.

Challenged books (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

In Austin, Texas, high school senior Ella Scott began leading a banned book club as a freshman when she first learned about attempts to challenge and censor certain stories. Since then, book ban attempts have risen in the state -- and so has participation in her club, which grew from three people in its initial meeting to 30 current participants.

In Texas alone, there were 30 attempts targeting 1,120 titles in the first eight months of the year, according to the ALA.

The ACLU of North Carolina kicked off Banned Books Week by posting a video featuring former "American Idol" winner Clay Aiken who talks about the book "And Tango Makes Three."

Under the NC Parents' Bill of Rights, there are restrictions on the content of books in school libraries. It also includes a process where parents can request a "parental concern hearing" with the state board over a school district or charter school's implementation of the Parents' Bill of Rights.

In September 2022, ABC11 talked to Triangle educators, booksellers who push back on book bans.

'Banned Books Week' is normally held in late September, however, in 2023 it was the first week of October.

Editors's note: The video attached is from the 2022 Banned Books Week

So far this year, 92% of attempts sought to censor multiple titles, according to the ALA. At least 11 states saw some cases that involved challenges of 100 or more books.

Most challenges come from parents, according to recent data collected by the ALA.