Book bans in public schools increased 33% over the last school year, according to a new report from literary nonprofit PEN America.
There were 3,362 book bans in the 2022–23 school year, a marked increase over the previous year, PEN says. The organization attributes the rise in bans to “hyperbolic and misleading rhetoric about ‘porn in schools’ and ‘sexually explicit,’ ‘harmful,’ and ‘age inappropriate’ materials.”
“Overwhelmingly, book bans target books on race or racism or featuring characters of color, as well as books with LGBTQ+ characters,” PEN says. “And this year, banned books also include books on physical abuse, health and well-being, and themes of grief and death.”
That tracks with the American Library Association’s latest list of the most frequently challenged or banned books. Of the 13 books to make the list, seven were challenged for LGBTQ+ content, and five were written by authors of color.
The PEN report found that 40% of book bans over the 2022–23 school year occurred in Florida. The state is home to Moms for Liberty, a right-wing group known for its frequent attempts to ban books from schools. Texas had the second largest number of book bans, followed by Missouri, Utah, and Pennsylvania.
PEN CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement, “The toll of the book banning movement is getting worse.…By depriving a rising generation of the freedom to read, these bans are eating away at the foundations of our democracy.”
Michael Schaub is a contributing writer.