October 6, 2022

Texas students form book clubs to read novels banned from school shelves

Some students in Texas began forming book clubs centered on novels that adults either challenged or successfully pulled from school shelves.

The books reviewed largely focus on topics such as sexual orientation, race, and gender identity, and include titles such as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Ashley Hope Perez out of darkness, reported the Texas Tribune. Students from Katy Independent School District and Leander Independent School District are among those now coming together to read these books, which were previously readily available.

The student pushback comes during a statewide review of content available to young learners. While many parents and Texas politicians behind the ban efforts say they are trying to protect students, some students said only books centered on certain topics were targeted.

“It’s clear that these books address issues of race and LGBTQ identities, and that’s the exact reason why some people are seeking to remove these books from libraries and ban students from accessing them,” Cameron said. Samuels, a student at Katy ISD High School. , told La Tribune. “And these policies have dire consequences for us because they keep us grappling with our queer identities.”

Some students in Texas began forming book clubs centered on novels that adults either challenged or successfully pulled from school shelves. Above, books are stored in a library on June 28, 2013 in Spring, Texas.
David J. Phillip/AP Photo

At Katy ISD near Houston, more than 100 students are attending after-school meetings to talk about book bans and read some of the targeted novels, The Tribune reported. Some publishers and a political advocacy organization provide the books to students free of charge.

One of these books is by Kalynn Bayron Cinderella is deadthe story of a queer black teenager.

At Leander ISD, near Austin, students discuss banned books at a club and have also begun protesting a crackdown on reading materials at school board meetings, according to The Tribune.

In Katy, students attended a recent school board meeting to encourage the district to make books banned, and some plan to further protest the bans at a rally at the state Capitol this weekend, a reported The Tribune.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has ordered Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath to investigate “any criminal activity in public schools involving the availability of pornographic material that serves no educational purpose.”

Abbott ordered the TEA to report any situation where “pornography” was made available to minors under the age of 18 “for prosecution to the fullest extent of the law,” according to a press release issued at the end of Last year.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that no Texas child is exposed to pornography or obscene material in a Texas public school, and your investigation will help accomplish that mission,” Abbott wrote in a letter to Morat.

Newsweek contacted Katy ISD and Leander ISD for comment.

Update 3/7/22, 3:00 PM ET: This story has been updated with additional information and information.