Defending the Right to Learn and the Freedom to Read

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What We Believe

We believe that welcoming and inclusive schools provide books and materials that allow students to see themselves, explore the world, and learn about the experiences of others. Schools already have rigorous processes to identify books with learning value that are age-appropriate for students.

Small groups of parents have tried to impose their views on entire school communities. Students and their parents should be able to make their own choices, not dictated by others. Under Federal law, parents have the right to review their children’s circulation records.

Attempts to ban books are on the rise around the nation; Pennsylvania is no exception. According to PEN America, from July 2021 through June 2023, there have been more than 5,894 decisions to ban books in public schools nationally and 644 of those instances were in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania ranks third among states with the most banned books during that period. Nationally, the majority of banned books have included characters of color or discussed race and racism and/or contained LGTBQ+ characters or themes. This worrisome trend is already negatively impacting Pennsylvania students, who will have less access to the diverse viewpoints and ideas expressed if book banning continues. 

Read our fact sheet about book bans and your rights here.

Read our policy statement about book bans here.

What We’re Fighting: Library Censorship and Book Bans

In late 2020, the Central York School District removed dozens of booksfrom its curriculum and school libraries, children’s books written by Black and Indigenous authors, and books about race and racism. While Central York reversed its book ban, a total of 16 school districts in Pennsylvania proposed or passed book bans from July 2021 through June 2023.  Along with communities around the state, we are fighting back. 

In 2022 the Pennsylvania State Senate voted to adopt SB 1277. This bill did not pass the House, after our advocacy. This piece of legislation was based on the false premise that school libraries are filled with sexually explicit materials and that parents have no rights regarding children’s access to library books. It would require school boards to identify and prohibit books and materials that meet a vague standard of “sexually explicit content,” regardless of the educational and literary value, which could include works like Romeo and Juliet. In practice, books that include LGBTQ+ characters and themes would be most likely to be removed. More than 300 organizations and individuals signed a letter opposing this bill

While we successfully stopped this legislation, we face an ongoing need to counter similar legislative efforts.