June 26, 2022

Children’s book authors decry recent bans

More than 1,300 children’s book authors have signed a letter to Congress condemning the recent round of bans on school libraries in Republican-run states, which preceded a Thursday House hearing that heard an overwhelming majority of testimonies of defenders denouncing censorship.

The letter is signed by famous and well-known authors, including Judy Blume, Mo Willems and Rick Riordan, who say the bans not only target their works and the nation’s intellectual discourse, but also “children, families and communities.” who are caught in the crosshairs of these campaigns.

“When books are removed or flagged as inappropriate, it sends the message that the people in them are somehow inappropriate. It is a dehumanizing form of erasure,” the letter read. “Every reader deserves to see himself and his family represented positively in the books of his schools.”

The authors sent the letter to Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Nancy Mace (RS.C.) and the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which held its second hearing on the matter on Thursday.

In his opening statements, Raskin said “book censorship destroys the healthy environment for free inquiry and learning” and linked book bans to the rise of extremism in the country, including the shooter white supremacist who shot and killed 10 people in a majority black supermarket. neighborhood of Buffalo, NY, last weekend.

“These laws are being used to undermine public confidence in public schools and destroy one of the key pillars of our democracy,” Raskin said.

During the hearing, lawmakers heard from people who identify with the LGBTQ community, including high school students and teachers who spoke out against the bans because they can lead to mental health issues for LGBTQ students. , which have some of the highest suicide rates in the country. nation.

Lawmakers also heard from a historian who warned that banning the books would be the beginning of “the end of democracy”, as well as other free speech campaigners.

One activist spoke out in favor of the bans, arguing against racial or sexual indoctrination.

Since 2021, authorities have imposed more than 1,500 bans or restrictions on books in 86 school districts in 26 states, according to an April report by advocacy group PEN America.

The states with the most restrictions or bans on books in public schools are Texas, with 713; Pennsylvania, with 456; Florida, with 204; Oklahoma; with 43; Kansas, with 30; and Tennessee, with 16.

Tennessee has proposed one of the most restrictive bills, advancing a measure this spring to ban any book supporting LGBTQ issues. A Tennessee state lawmaker has said he will “burn” books he opposes during an assembly session on tightening restrictions on book reviews.

Republicans have opposed books they view as salacious or that indoctrinate students on issues such as race or gender. Critical Race Theory, an academic framework based on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions, has also been at the center of the book bans.

During Thursday’s hearings, Mace, a Republican, said she supports teaching all of US history, but has “seen attempts to indoctrinate our students” on topics that don’t should not be part of the school curriculum.

“The innocence of our children should be protected and prioritized,” she said, opposing critical race theory or hypersexual topics.

The Hill has compiled a list of the 10 most targeted books, including Angie Thomas’ ‘The Hate U Give’, which focuses on a high school girl who witnesses the death of her friend at the hands of a police officer, and ‘Maus’. by Art Spiegelman, a critically acclaimed graphic novel about World War II and the Holocaust.

Thomas signed the letter that was sent to Congress on Tuesday, as did John Green, whose book “Looking for Alaska” has been frequently targeted. Other signers whose books make the list of most targeted texts are Lesléa Newman, Jerry Craft and Maia Kobabe.

The authors argue that libraries and school systems have systems in place that allow parents to voice concerns about a book, but outright bans are harmful. Recent progress to include more black, Indigenous and people of color in books is being eroded by increased censorship, they wrote.

“A book may not be for every student, but – as we know from the many letters we receive from young readers – a single book can have profound significance for a particular student,” reads- we in the letter. “Libraries are First Amendment bastions. They provide equal access to a wealth of knowledge and ideas to all public school students. »