Banned Books Week was created in 1982 to put a spotlight on a controversy, one that continues even today.
PEN America says that last school year from July 2022 to June 2023, there were more than 3,300 individual book bans in U.S. public school libraries and classrooms. The bans removed access to more than 1,550 unique book titles, a 33% increase compared to the previous school year.
"Often we see books being banned that are memoirs or semi-autobiographical texts, that authors felt like when they were coming up, they didn't have that book," said Meehan. "They didn't, they couldn't see themselves reflected in a given book."
The group's research found that Florida had the most instances of books banned, followed by Texas, Missouri, Utah and Pennsylvania. The organization is actually announcing the opening of a new office in Miami, supported by big name authors like Jodi Picoult, James Patterson and Amanda Gorman to help fight book censorship.
"Our hope is that by bringing attention and further investment into what's happening in Florida, we can resist what's happening within the state, but also use that to prevent censorship from continuing to expand across other states and districts in the United States," Meehan said.
Not everyone is on board with banned books week. Moms for Liberty is an organization that says it is "dedicated to fighting for the survival of America by unifying, educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government." They have spurred a growing movement to remove books from school that they say have sexually explicit passages. Co-founder Tiffany Justice believes the opposition to what her group is trying to accomplish is purely political.
"Write the book, see the book, put it in the public library, if that’s what you want to do, but we're talking about public school libraries. And if you can’t show the book on TV or read the text at a school board meeting, it has no place in a public school library," said Justice.
The organization is celebrating what they call "Teach a Kid to Read Week" this week, trying to take the focus off banned books and onto low national reading scores.
For PEN America, they hope this week sparks a change of perspective.
"I would encourage folks this week to think really deeply around, you know, rather than erring on the side of exclusion and restrictions and removals and bans, how can we reframe and think about all the books that should be available to students?" said Meehan.
Trending stories at Scrippsnews.com