School Book Bans on the Rise
Pen America identified at least 50 groups responsible for 2,532 individual cases of books being banned during the 2021-2022 school year. 1,648 unique book titles were banned, covering the work of 1,261 authors, 290 illustrators, and 18 translators.
Pen America stated, “Over the 2021–22 school year, what started as modest school-level activity to challenge and remove books in schools grew into a full-fledged social and political movement, powered by local, state, and national groups.”
While book bans were reported in 138 school districts across 32 states (representing 5,049 schools with about 4 million students), Texas banned the most books with 801 bans over 22 districts.
41% of the books contain LGBTQ+ themes or characters, 40% have characters of color, 22% contain sexual content, 21% discuss race and racism, 10% contain rights and activism content, 9% are biographies, autobiograhies, or memoirs, and 4% include characters of religious minorities in the United States.
75% of the banned books are fiction, 24% are nonfiction, and 1% poetry. Almost half (49%) of the books are for young adult readers. 19% are picture books, 11% adult books, 11% for middle grade readers, and 10% chapter books.
Pen America found the majority of book were banned from school classrooms (481 titles), followed by libraries (253), and both classrooms and libraries (215). Another 984 titles were banned pending investigation at the time of the report.
The most frequently banned books, as reported by Pen America, during the 2021-2022 school year were:
- Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe (41 districts)
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson (29 districts)
- Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez (24 districts)
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (22 districts)
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (17 districts)
- Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison (17 districts)
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (16 districts)
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (14 districts)
- Crank by Ellen Hopkins (12 districts)
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (12 districts)
1. Should parents or other adults be able to ban books from schools and libraries? Why or why not?
2. Have you read any of the most often banned books? For which age groups do you think the books appropriate?
3. Consider the content in books that are frequently banned: LGBTQ+ characters or themes, characters or color and/or racism, activism themes, etc. Do you think books with those themes and characters should be available to K-12 students? Explain your answer(s).
Jonathan Friedman and Nadine Farid Johnson, “Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools,” pen.org, Sep. 19, 2022