An unprecedented wave of book bans is sweeping across the U.S., according to experts who track book bans and challenges at PEN America and the American Library Association.
In a preliminary report released on Sept. 16 tracking book challenges so far in 2022, the ALA reports that there were 681 attempts to ban or restrict library resources through Aug. 31. In that same period, a whopping 1,651 unique titles were targeted.
Those numbers put America on track for a record-breaking year of challenges and bans on books. The information was released for Banned Books Week, which runs from Sept. 18-24.
A PEN America open-source book banning tracking index shows challenges and banned book by state through June 2022. Their tracking determined that 874 authors, 198 illustrators and nine translators had their work on 1,145 titles targeted for banning.
The index also lists specific school districts and states, noting that the limits have impacted more than 2 million students' access to information.
In response to the restrictions, Brooklyn Public Library has been offering a free e-card service to any student who applies through their Books Unbanned program. The card is for students ages 13-17 who have been directly impacted and seek access to banned books. Students in all 50 states are eligible.
Washington state has had its share of book bans and challenges in the last two years that have taken place through individual school districts. Areas with recent challenges include Kent School District, Central Kitsap School District and Walla Walla Public Schools.
Titles banned or challenged in Washington state include All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson, Jack of Hearts (and other parts) by L.C. Rosen, and If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo.
All three titles are among the most commonly-challenged in America, particularly in the past two years.
Kent School District ultimately rescinded its decision to ban Jack of Hearts (and other parts).
Throughout regions where book challenges are arising, a key proponent of pulling titles from shelves for review is a non-profit organization called Moms for Liberty. The group currently has four active chapters in Washington state in Snohomish, Kitsap, Benton and Whitman counties.