Kids’ Right to Read Project Responds to Big Increase in Book Challenges

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Right up to the end of the year, the Kids’ Right to Read Project (KRRP) has been confronting an unusually high number of challenges to titles in libraries and classrooms around the country. In November alone, KRRP investigated three times the average number of incidents.

“It has been a sprint since the beginning of the school year,” said KRRP coordinator, Acacia O’Connor. “We would settle one issue and wake up the next morning to find out another book was on the chopping block.”

KRRP — which was founded by the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and is supported by the Association of American Publishers and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund — offers support, education, and advocacy in the face of book challenges or bans, while engaging local activists in promoting the freedom to read.

This year to date, KRRP responded to 49 incidents in 29 states, a 53 percent increase from last year. The majority of the challengers were parents of district students or library patrons, though some challenges came as a result of action taken by local or state government officials. From September to December, the majority of the incidents involved materials used in classroom instruction.

Another trend that emerged in the fall was challenges to works by well-known minority writers, including Invisible Man, The Bluest Eye, The Color Purple, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, The House of the Spirits, and Bless Me, Ultima.

“Whether or not patterns like this are the result of coordination between would-be censors across the country is impossible to say,” said O’Connor. “But there are moments, when a half-dozen or so challenges regarding race or LGBT content hit within a couple weeks, where you just have to ask ‘what is going on out there?’”

Despite the alarming numbers, KRRP’s involvement and advocacy has notably increased the number of positive outcomes to book challenges, with two victories in the past week alone. KRRP’s list of the year’s top victories can be viewed on the project’s website.