What message do book bans send to black students?


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From bills banning the teaching of Nikole Hannah-Jones’ The 1619 Project to Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye being pulled off shelves, book bans are on the rise across the United States unprecedented prices. In the last two years, most bans have been aimed at books about the LGBTQ+ experience and race in America.

And the upswing in the book bans doesn’t stop. A record number of books have already been targeted this year – 1,651 unique titles from January 2022 to August 2022, including a new report by the American Library Association. This surpasses the 2021 record of 1,597 banned titles, which was the highest number of challenges or bans ALA has seen in its more than 20 years of tracking.

Banning books is tantamount to wanting to control a frame of thought, be it for specific people or topics or ideas, he says dr Fedrick IngramSecretary-Treasurer of American Federation of Teachers. This is not fair to young people and creates an uneducated population, which is not good for democracy.

You can no longer teach books that have been taught as part of the English curriculum for years.


“Our public schools and libraries need to be protected,” says Ingram. “We need to expand access to universal books and give our students a comprehensive view of the world and its history and what they can actually become by reading everything so that they are independent thinkers.”

AFT’s Reading opens the world Campaign helps make books more accessible by giving away 1 million books across the country. The ongoing bans have not affected the campaign, but they do have a “deterrent effect” on teachers. Ingram mentioned classics like “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Of Mice and Men” – classics that are now banned in some states.

“Laws have been passed that teachers are hot on their heels,” says Ingram. “They can no longer teach books that have been taught as part of the English curriculum for years.”

Which books are banned?

The American Library Association isn’t the only group pursuing book bans. PEN Americaan organization dedicated to protecting freedom of expression has a Database of book bans in libraries and classrooms from July 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022. In those nine months, the organization counted 1,586 bans against 874 authors and 1,145 books.

This Prohibited span 86 school districts in 26 states, affecting 2,899 schools and over 2 million students.

The report found that 72% of banned titles are fiction, 47% are young adult fiction and 18% are children’s picture books. And the content of the books in this database reflects the attacks across the country on books dealing with race and racism, LGBTQ issues and sex education.

In the database, 41% of banned books have protagonists or prominent supporting characters of race, and 22% address race and racism directly, the report found. It’s not just fiction that’s being banned, either. PEN America found that 16% of banned books are history books or biographies and 9% have rights and activism themes.

The LGBT Memoirs”Gender Queer‘ tops list of 30 banned in that period, followed by George M. Johnson’s collection of black queer autobiographical essays’All boys are not blue‘ with 21 bans. From PEN America’s database, only six books have received more than 10 bans, and four of those are race-related.

Three prominent black children’s authors – Jason Reynolds, Angie Thomas and Jerry Craft – are no strangers to book bans. Thomas and Reynolds are regular members of the American Library Association annual top 10 list of the most challenged books. And despite writing the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Award, Craft’s “New Kid” has one contested claims advocate for critical race theory.

That National Council of English Teachers created a Database of banned books and offers Help for educators who need to write a formal “justification” for being able to teach the books. However, you must be a member of NCTE to view them.

“Students have one right to read Material that is of interest to them,” says Emily Kirkpatrick, the managing director of NCTE. She says recognizing Banned Books Week this year “is a reminder for everyone to remain vigilant, to continue to advocate for access to all types of materials that appeal to the interests of students and, much broader, readers of all ages . ”

How do these bans affect schools?

Despite widespread bans, books by Reynolds, Thomas, and Craft remain popular with teachers. From the 2020-2021 to 2021-2022 school year, all three authors saw large requests for their books through DonorsChoose. There was a 58% increase in Craft books, a 29% increase in Reynolds books and a 20% increase in Thomas books.

DonorsChoose works with schools and districts nationwide to to classify them as “equity focus” and “non-equity focus”. It defines equity focus schools as those where at least 50% of the student body is Black, Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander or mixed race and at least 50% of the students qualify for a free or reduced lunch.

In the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, there were nearly equal numbers of requests for these books from both equal opportunity and non-equal opportunity schools, with only about 300 additional requests from equal opportunity schools each year.

In the 2021-2022 school year, there was a slight increase in requests for these books in schools without a gender focus, with requests increasing by 13%. However, schools with a focus on justice saw a 55% increase in requests for books by these authors.

Crafts in particular have seen enormous growth for “new kid‘ every year, showing that trying to ban a book can popularize it. From 2019-2020 to 2020-2021 there was a 213% increase for his book through DonorsChoose headlines He did after his virtual appearance at a Texas school was canceled after parents claimed his book supported critical race theory.

While book bans are frequent counterproductive because they increase sales of a book, this is not the case for all authors of banned books. breanna McDaniel’s 2019 lyrics “Hands up!‘ – a children’s picture book – has been banned or challenged in some states. As a result, sales of her book plummeted, McDaniel says.

“People are very sensitive about messaging very young children,” says McDaniel, also a program manager at the nonprofit We need diverse books. “Because picture books are aimed at this audience, picture books are tricky.”

Book bans send message

Banning books from schools and libraries has many implications. You’re missing out on “certified classics,” says Ingram, including Pulitzer Prize-winning books and others that have stood the test of time. For people to formulate their own ideas, they need access to the entire story, Ingram says.

“Unfortunately, our students don’t receive the full service of our schools, our libraries, our curriculum and, unfortunately, their own knowledge,” says Ingram. “These are things that do not bode well for an educated population in this democracy trying to make this a fairer game.”

Nowadays, banning a physical book from a physical place only gets so much. Books can be purchased, accessed online, or borrowed from another library. But the act of prohibition still sends a message to students.

in one recent interview with Reader’s DigestIbram X. Kendi, author of the frequently banned or contested book How to Be Antiracist, said that books that challenge notions of Black inferiority are considered indoctrination, but books that say nothing about Blacks or notions of Black people are not affirm Black inferiority counts as education.

This message of inferiority means black and brown students are more likely to see, hear, and feel the effects than their peers.

“It’s unfortunate because we live in a society where black and brown students already have to deal with overt racism, they already have to deal with politicians talking about their home country and they already have to deal with all the cynical kinds of address politics that we see,” says Ingram.

NCTE launched a campaign in May 2022 called This story is important to combat ongoing censorship because it says something “very dramatic and very disturbing” about the banned storylines, says Kirkpatrick.

“When students identify with a story or a character, the ultimate message that’s been conveyed is that you don’t matter,” says Kirkpatrick.

When students identify with a story or character, the ultimate message conveyed is that you don’t matter


McDaniel repeats what Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, the “mother” of multicultural children’s literature, wrote in 1990.

“Books are sometimes windows that offer views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or alien,” wrote Sims Bishop. “These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers only have to pass through in the imagination to become part of the world that the author has created and recreated. If the lighting conditions are right, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in this reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience.”

“For everyone, especially people who don’t always have the opportunity to explore beyond what they’re experiencing, books provide those windows,” says McDaniel, “just as they provide the mirrors and the sliding glass doors that Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop when it comes to those conversations.”

And having politicians in the classroom telling teachers what they can teach and what books are acceptable has dangerous consequences. That’s why AFT distributes books and helps open more libraries to give students “a full spectrum of education…so they can be better stewards of society.”

“If we attack our public schools and our classrooms,” says Ingram, “it will endanger what we know as democracy for years to come.”

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