New York’s Brooklyn Public Library launched a “Books Unbanned” program to fight against the anti-critical race theory legislation that has yanked books about race and gender off the shelves. Over the past few months, they issued 5,100 free electronic library cards nationally to teens who have been denied access to certain books, according to CNN.
A study by PEN America found two million students across 86 school districts have been restricted access to books about race and gender thanks to right-sided legislation. Researchers found that the ongoing book bans have led to 1,145 book titles being pulled from the shelves. About 21 of them were pulled the most often including Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer: A Memoir, George M. Johnson’s All Boys aren’t Blue and even Toni Morrison’s classic The Bluest Eye.
Brooklyn Public Library chief Nick Higgins told CNN he’s received hundreds of messages from teenagers showing their gratitude for free library cards as well as expressing their anger about not having access to some books via their own library. “- it’s also really telling that there are significant censorship efforts going on across the country that a lot of us need to band together to push back on,” Higgins said.
Read about the program’s success from CNN:
Since then, readers between 13 to 21 years old in every state of the country and Washington, DC have applied for the electronic cards, Higgins said, and an estimated 18,000 e-books or audiobooks have been checked out every month.
As part of the initiative, a group of teens in New York who are members of the library’s Teen Intellectual Freedom Council invited teens who got their electronic cards to meet virtually. Now, teens in Texas, Alabama and other states meet once a month to discuss censorship and ways to push back in their own communities.
Director of PEN America’s Free Expression and Education program, Jonathan Friedman, also called the book banning a form of censorship and politicization. Education is now a political playground for both sides to interject their values which does more harm to the students they’re trying to “protect.” Their intentions go beyond students being exposed to explicit language. They’re trying to hide the truth.
“We are witnessing the erasure of topics that only recently represented progress toward inclusion,” said Friedman via Education Week.
Per the report, anyone with a card has access to the library’s archive of 350,000 electronic books, 200,000 audiobooks and 100 databases. They also made sure to section off the very novels that tend to be challenged by legislators and school boards.