2023 Right to Read Bills Under Consideration: Book Censorship News, May 5, 2023
There are dozens of censorship bills under consideration across the country. You can keep tabs on them and their status over at EveryLibrary, who have been diligently tracking them and getting people to write and show up to put an end to them. It will shock absolutely no one to see how many of those book ban bills overlap with 533 bills proposed this year targeting trans people.
But writing about the not good stuff doesn’t always seem to garner the same kind of fervor or action that writing about the (minimal) good stuff does. So this week, let’s look at the four bills underway that are doing the opposite: they’re proposing legislation to protect the right to read and the ability for librarians and educators to provide a diverse array of materials to patrons of all ages.
In other words, these bills will let professionals keep doing the jobs they’re educated and trained to do.
Illinois HB 2789
The Illinois Right to Read bill, written about here, would tie state funding of libraries to their commitment to intellectual freedom. The bill passed through the state House, and this week, passed through the Senate. It will have no problem being signed by Governor Pritzker, making Illinois the first state to legislate against book bans.
New York S6350
Introduced into the New York State Senate in mid-April, this bill would amend the state’s education law to mandate that schools and libraries provide access to a broad range of materials to all students. From the bill’s justification notes:
Democratic self-government depends on a free exchange of ideas and information, and our schools must continue to ensure that ideas and information are available for students to embrace or reject in line with their values and those they learn from their families and communities. This bill helps to protect the freedom to read by ensuring that school boards will continue to provide the broadest range of access to age-appropriate materials in school libraries. The Dignity for All Students Act, as it now stands, prohibits discrimination, harassment, and bullying in schools. This bill amends DASA by adding a guarantee of access to diverse reading materials.
The bill is currently in the Senate education committee. If you’re in New York state, you can and should write your senators in support of this bill. The bill’s website makes it very easy to do just that.
Rhode Island HB 6066
This may be the least discussed bill that places explicit protections on educators and librarians so far. The bill, introduced early in the legislative session, would protect library workers and educators who are falling under attack by book banners suggesting that the materials they make accessible to minors are “obscene” and thus, the professional can be sued for breaking the law. It protects professionals from undue, unjust, and targeted hardship under the guise of providing inappropriate materials to minors.
Unfortunately, the bill has been stalled in the House Committee since mid-March. That does not mean you should not be writing your House representatives if you’re a Rhode Island resident. Quite the opposite — now is when you really write.
US Right to Read Act
If this bill sounds familiar to you, it’s because the bill was initially introduced last fall during the lame duck session, with the pretty open knowledge it was not going to go anywhere.
The good news is that Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-03) have reintroduced the bill. The Right to Read Act would expand access to school libraries across the country and legislate money to help support their growth. This is crucial, as we know school libraries continue to be first on the chopping block when school budgets are tight….if there was even a school library at all.
A provision of the Right to Read Act is the role of the library as a space where First Amendment Rights are granted to all. In addition to codifying Constitutional Rights as inherent in libraries, the bill would grant protections to librarians and educators who experience the burden of book bans and prosecution for doing their job.
It’s a good bill, and the legislators timed it well to coincide with National Library Week and School Library Month in April. But will it go any further than it did last time? That remains to be seen, especially as the right pushes harder and has more financial resources to back bills like HR 863, which aims to do just the opposite and criminalize the professionals doing their job.
Bonus: Prison Libraries Act
Prisons are the number one place of censorship in the United States. Despite more mainstream coverage of censorship clawing its way through public libraries and schools, this reality of First Amendment Rights violations of those experiencing incarceration continues to be ignored or overlooked completely. We know access to books and reading is directly related to ending recidivism, but in a county where the prison industrial complex is an epitome of capitalist values, it’s easier to pretend it doesn’t exist.
Fortunately, U.S. Representatives Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Shontel Brown (D-OH) have introduced a bill that would expand prison libraries and open up the opportunities for those experiencing incarceration to better themselves. This bill would authorize $60,000,000 over six years for state prisons to provide library resources and services — indeed, this isn’t just about dropping tons of books into the prisons and moving on. Trained professionals would be there to help people use the educational and entertainment resources. The Act would also help build powerful coalitions between prisons and the local libraries in their community.
On a personal note for this one: as an author, I’ve had the privilege of doing dozens of book events across the country. They’ve been at professional organization conferences, at indie bookstores, at book festivals, and more. But the singular most impactful event — one I would do again and again in a heartbeat — was at a teen juvenile detention facility. Connecting with kids who so many have written off was powerful, and it was equally powerful to see other adults, from those who worked in the facility to the coordinators of such visits outside the facility, deeply passionate about helping these young people feel seen, cared about, and nurtured.
Every single person deserves that, and books so often are bridge which allows it to happen.
Book Censorship News: May 5, 2023
- Let’s continue the theme of potentially good news, since it’s not going up from here: Slaugherhouse Five will remain on shelves in Farmington Schools (AR).
- Deckerville Public Library (MI) will keep Gender Queer on shelves.
- The newly-expanded Don’t Say Gay law in Florida has a new book ban provision which will allow anyone who wants to play fascist librarian to do just that and get any and all books pulled they don’t like. This will allow folks like Bruce Friedman, with his list of 1000s of books he doesn’t like, to continue getting to decide what all kids in a district read. If Bruce didn’t already have my books on his list because of the article where I talked about what he’s doing in Clay County, he’d add them now.
- Eight books by Nora Roberts were pulled from shelves in Martin County Schools (FL).
- People in League City, Texas, are not happy about the book review committee being formed to
emptyevaluate their collection.
- “A lawsuit challenging the automatic removal of contested books under a Missouri school district’s policy was dismissed because the parents behind the suit hadn’t alleged that the policy caused them a concrete injury.” So the Independence School District in Missouri has done their students dirty with a policy that a book being challenged automatically gets pulled from shelves while being reviewed and even a lawsuit can’t change that. This is codified censorship: the removal of an item from shelves by a government entity.
- In Cheboygan Schools (MI), did you know a single parent who found the book All American Boys “upsetting to their child” because their daddy is a police officer and the book talks about police brutality….got the book pulled from curriculum? ONE parent with a vested interested in doing so. Anyway, good luck stopping more of this in that district.
- Some of our neighbors in Manitoba continue to play out the right-wing American book banning agenda.
- I’m not writing here what caused the violent outburst which led to two people being kicked out of the Rio Rancho Public Library board meeting (NM). Let’s just say the instigator would never make it a single day in the public library working there, and that conspiracy theories like his are what’s fueling this nonsense.
- “Families of high-schoolers and the local NAACP chapter are suing the Pickens County School District [SC] in federal court, saying the school board’s decision to ban a book on challenging racism was unconstitutional.” It’s over Stamped by Jason Reynolds.
- 12 books will remain right where they are in Jefferson Parish Library (LA), despite book crisis actor complaints.
- Riverton, Utah’s mayor is demanding the removal of 100-some books — he named none, of course — from the Jordan School District.
- Speaking of men in roles of political power wielding it unethically, a York County councilman decided that the York County Public Libraaries (SC) need to be reviewing every children’s book in their collection because of how much pornography apparently is hanging out in there. Remember: these fools get power because people showed up to the polls to elect them.
- Oh, once Volusia County Public Library’s (FL) board heard that creating blanket book bans wasn’t popular, they decided to drop it. Neat. Also, I am going to remain skeptical here. This is the same county where the school district wants to invest to Moms for Liberty’s book review “database.”
- The Kite Runner and The Carnival at Bray will remain on shelves in Wilson County schools (TN).
- “Susan Sisti said allowing children access to books such as “Sex is a Funny Word” will set them down a dark path. “Something like that can cause a child to develop an addiction,” she said. “As these professionals are saying, it’s a very difficult addiction to overcome, requires a lot more treatment than regular drugs.”” I’d love to know what addiction a book about the reproductive process would create. This is still Campbell County, Wyoming, public library. This library has been a victim of nonsense since 2021, when librarians were threatened with lawsuits for doing their jobs.
- This book banner — I’m calling them that since they state they dislike it — let on that Newtown Schools (CT) quietly removed Fun Home from district libraries. They’re mad about it, despite wanting to ban Flamer, because of how the board called them book banners and now the school itself is banning books. Look: you’re ALL wrong here.
- Love the “we don’t co-parent with the government” contingent citing some random police officer’s assessment of Flamer as good reason for the Elk Grove Unified school district (CA) to pull it from shelves.
- “There’s no doubt they are grooming children and the public to accept pedophilia. Prove me wrong.” This is from the comments on a story about Elmhurst School District (IL) and their decision to take more time to review whether or not to use American Street as a Freshman course book. I…don’t remember what of that book would constitute grooming and pedophilia, but okay. (Elmhurst has a particularly virulent “parental rights” group that loves doing this kind of stuff at the school).
- Prior Lake-Savage Area School District (MN) has received challenges on Me and Earl and The Dying Girl, Tricks, and Push. It sounds like they’re anticipating more to come soon, too.
- I have no idea what will be allowed to be displayed in Union County Schools (NC) anymore. I suppose a U.S. flag and state flag and…that’s all?
- Dorchester School District Two (SC) board just updated their policies so only parents and legal guardians can challenge books. A step all schools should be taking.
- Two more books are under review in Sarasota, Florida, schools. I’d tell you which ones but I’m paywalled.
- “After six months of requesting these two simple policies (no displays about sexuality and use the restroom of your biological sex), no such policies have been made.” This person thinks they sound reasonable, complaining about public libraries in Georgia.
- Karen, you’ve consumed the Kool-aid and are now passing out cups to others. There is not “porn” in Idaho libraries. I’m concerned about folks who equate books about the biology of reproduction with porn. How easily titillated are you?
- “LEH resident Pamela Kurt took the floor during the public comment period of the meeting and told the board she had in her possession a list of over 30 picture books for children ages 3 to 8 on “transgender ideology and gender identity found in our local library.” She said she was going to give copies of that list to board members. Kurt wanted to know if any of these books or “other materials related to this issue” exist in any of the district’s libraries or classrooms. “I do not believe in banning books. I believe in free speech,” she said. “What I’m concerned about is what our children are exposed to in school.” They always come with a list, usually copy-pasted from Facebook dot com, and they want the books gone but they don’t ban books, so don’t worry. This is Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey.
- Now there are folks who want to set limits on what kids can access at the public libraries in Hillsboro County, Florida. How many times can it be said that public libraries aren’t the solution to school libraries because public libraries are ALSO the target?
- Garfield County Public Library (CO) will not be removing the books one parent complained about. It’s the usual suspects because these people aren’t creative.
- Wasilla, Alaska’s only indie bookstore got blowback for hosting a drag storytime.
- The graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary is now being reviewed for potential removal in Martin County, Florida.
- Windham-Raymond school district (ME) will keep Gender Queer in the school library.
- “On Tuesday, some Rapid City [SD] community members continued to speak out against what they claim are 200 books in the RCAS that allegedly contain ‘Pornography, pedophilia, and racism.’ According to one of those community members who did not want to be named, they don’t want to ‘ban’ the books, rather they want them out of the schools and ‘left at the public library.'” Snore. Get some new hobbies. This story comes with the requisite we aren’t banning books because they can stay in the public library but anyone who has been around the block knows the public library is next…and it’s still banning if you demand it removed from an institution.
- I’m paywalled, but a parent in West Virginia is mad his kid had to listen to a storytime read about the creation of the rainbow flag.
Also In This Story Stream
- Unfurling The Book Banner Lies: Book Censorship News, June 2, 2023
- When Do We Move From Advocacy to Preparation?: Book Censorship News, May 26, 2023
- A Bill in Connecticut Would Fund Sanctuary Libraries: Book Censorship News, May 19, 2023
- How To Prepare Library Pride Displays: Book Censorship News, May 12, 2023
- The Next Generation United Daughters of the Confederacy: Book Censorship News, April 28, 2023
- So, What Are Agents Seeing in the Era of Book Bans?: Book Censorship News, April 21, 2023
- What 100-Year-Old Grace Linn Can Teach Us About Standing Up for the Freedom to Read: Book Censorship News, March 31, 2023
- Are Literary Agents Seeing Changes in Publishing with Increased Book Bans (A Survey): Book Censorship News, March 24, 2023
- I Asked ChatGPT Why Books Should Be Banned: Book Censorship News, March 17, 2023