WITS opposes all efforts to ban books in schools and libraries across the United States. WITS approaches our work with books using the “windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors” philosophy; meaning that we aim to provide a balance of books that are:
- windows into the realities of others (not just imaginary worlds)
- mirrors that reflect the lives of readers
- opportunities for the reader to walk into a story and become part of the world created by the author/fully immersed in another experience (sliding glass doors)
We believe that access to diverse books open readers to new worlds, allow us to see our lives and experiences reflected in stories, and act as tools for learning. Book banning directly obstructs these possibilities.
According to the American Library Association’s Unite Against Banned Books project, “efforts to ban books, especially in schools and libraries, are occurring in unprecedented numbers across the country. The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 attempts to ban or restrict books and services in libraries, schools and universities in 2021, resulting in the removal or restriction of more than 1,597 individual book titles. By comparison, the ALA tracked 377 challenges targeting 566 books in 2019.” The banning of individual books has more than doubled in the last year.
Book Bans Ramp Up in 2022
There is no indication that book banning is slowing down in 2022. Pen America tracked book bans in school districts across the United States from July 21, 2021 to March 31, 2022. There were over 270 book bans in school district libraries and classrooms from January 2022 through March 2022 alone. Legislative action often props up and facilitates these bans. There were 71 “educational gag order bills” introduced into state legislatures in the first three weeks of January. Many of these bills go beyond limiting or eliminating access to books. Educators could face mandatory punishment like fines or losing their jobs. Some legislation would allow parents to sue school districts for damages from the use of banned books or curriculum.
Campaigns to ban books have come and gone over the years, but there is a resurgence in bans on books that are considered too sexually explicit, contain offensive language, or are deemed unsuitable for any age group. These standards are excuses to target books that feature LGBTQ characters, explore gender and queer identities, and discuss race and racism in America. People who live these experiences are often the authors of banned books.
Fighting Back Against Book Bans
The news is not all bad. Students are standing up to book bans by starting their own book clubs to read banned books outside of school. Book Riot created this helpful resource on how students can start their own banned book club. Teenagers are voicing their opinions on book bans and speaking directly to the adults behind the bans. Organizations like We Need Diverse Books are providing grants to educators to help them counter efforts on book banning. WITS will continue to promote diverse books to our students, some of which show up frequently on banned book lists. For more information about diverse books WITS loves, check out these blogs: