As organized political attacks on books in schools spread, the National Coalition Against Censorship has issued a statement signed by more than 600 signatories condemning the efforts as acts of censorship that threaten the education of children while putting the safety of librarians, teachers, school administrators and school board officials in jeopardy.
The statement comes amid a dramatic rise in challenged books, and in particular challenges to books on race and the LGBTQ experience. But the current surge in challenges, freedom to read advocates say, appears to be part of an organized political strategy alongside calls to ban the teaching of so-called Critical Race Theory with the aim of sowing conflict and activating voters in communities across the nation. “There is an attempt to shift the conversation away from books and ideas to a conversation about parental control,” John Chrastka, executive director of EveryLibrary, a political action group that works to support libraries at the local level, told PW last month. “What we’re seeing is the weaponization of parental control to advance a political agenda.”
While the NCAC statement notes that policies already exist in most school districts to allow concerned parents to influence what their own children read, they point out that those policies are being repeatedly ignored or violated “as books are removed without proper review based on the personal opinions of particular groups of people.”
The NCAC statement asserts that “the law clearly prohibits the kind of activities we are seeing today: censoring school libraries, removing books and entire reading lists–based on disagreement with viewpoint and without any review of their educational or literary merit. Some would-be censors have gone even farther, threatening teachers, school librarians, authors, and school board members with criminal charges and even violence for allowing students access to books.”
The full NCAC statement and list of signatories can be seen here.
Among the over 600 signatories that have endorsed the statement are more than 80 organizations, 50 bookstores and 17 publishers and over 450 individual stakeholders, including authors, teachers and librarians. Notable organizational signatories include: ACLU, GLAAD, Color of Change, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Scholastic, Macmillan, Abrams, American Library Association, Lambda Legal, PEN America and the Authors Guild.
In a separate statement last month, Simon & Schuster CEO Jonathan Karp also expressed concern over the rise in book bans.
“The list of Simon & Schuster titles facing bans and challenges has grown 46% thanks to the recent surge in censorship activity, with particular targeting of books by and about people of color and from the LGBTQIA+ communities,” Karp wrote. “Left in place, these restrictions will leave us as a society all the poorer for our inability to engage with works and ideas that challenge our world view, even if they sometimes make us uncomfortable,” he added, calling the bans “an existential threat to the livelihood of our authors and our ability to publish free from censorious attack.”