Book Challenges Quadrupled in 2021, an Unprecedented Increase



Always books. Never boring.

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom is one organization that keeps track of formal book challenges and bans across the country. They have announced that their final count for number of challenges in 2021 was 729 challenges representing 1,597 individual books.

This is far from a complete picture: only some of the formal book challenges get submitted to the ALA, and the ALA itself estimates that 90% of book challenges are unreported. There are also many more books that aren’t formally challenged and instead see “quiet” or “soft” censorship: they are informally pulled off the shelves by administrators, teachers, and even librarians to prevent a possible challenge. That’s also not counting the teachers and librarians who choose not to order in or teach a book because they fear it will attract negative attention.

In 2020, the ALA had 156 challenges reported, though that number was affected by many schools and libraries being closed during the pandemic. In 2019, there were 377 challenges. The ALA also noted that this year saw several politicians publicly challenging books, which is very unusual.

You can read more about the ALA’s numbers at NPR. To stay up to date on censorship news, check out Book Riot’s weekly censorship round-up, and to learn how to fight back against censorship, check out the anti-censorship tool kit.