Posted on April 8, 2022 at 12:00 PM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

In case you wondered whether you were wrong to be anxious about reading access in the United States, PEN America is here to say: Sorry, but you're totally right.

The literary and free expression advocacy organization has recently called attention to two areas of concern for it.

Last month, PEN hosted a panel on the cost of reading in prisons.

It isn't news that inmates struggle to access books, let alone do so within their means, but Publishers Weekly points out in its article about the panel that COVID-19 made the problem worse.

PW covered the Cost of Reading in Prisons: Book Censorship and E-Reader Tablets In Carceral Institutions, which took place online.

And this week, PEN also joined the American Library Association in revealing disturbing trends in school book bans.

On Thursday, PEN released its own analysis of challenges to and bans on school library books and class curriculums, which covered July 31, 2021, to March 31, 2022.

The full report, Banned in the USA: Rising School Book Bans Threaten Free Expression and Students’ First Amendment Rights, is up online.

Some of the key takeaways are that there were 1,586 book bans — of 1,145 unique titles — and that close to half of the bans (713) occurred in Texas.

At least 41 percent of these bans were linked to elected officials — politicians, school board members, etc. — and not necessarily parents of students in those districts.

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe was banned in the most districts (thirty); it's among the top six challenged titles, which were the same in both the PEN and ALA studies.

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Categories: Today in Books

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