Sep 13, 2023 - News

Book ban attempts are surging in Ohio

Book ban attempts by state, 2022
Adapted from the American Library Association; Map: Axios Visuals

Ohio had the ninth-most attempts to restrict or ban books nationwide in 2022, according to an American Library Association report.

Driving the news: There were 93 attempts to restrict access to 79 titles in Ohio last year, compared to only 10 attempts to restrict access to 15 books in 2021.

  • The most challenged title in 2022 was "It's Perfectly Normal," a sex education book for kids that has been controversial since its 1994 debut.

Why it matters: Before the pandemic, most library book challenges were from specific parents regarding specific books. But in 2022, the association estimates 90% of book challenges targeted multiple titles.

The big picture: This is evidence of a "growing, well-organized conservative" movement that is broadly distributing lists to supporters to file mass challenges, Axios' Emma Hurt reports.

By the numbers: Of 1,269 attempts nationwide to ban 2,571 books in 2022, 40% sought to remove or restrict more than 100 books at once.

  • Total attempts in 2022 were nearly double 2021's figure.

Zoom in: Locally, parents targeted dozens of books at Hilliard school libraries this spring, most dealing with LGBTQ+ characters or sex.

  • "These conversations, if had, should be between a parent and a child," parent Cynthia Sheets said during a school board meeting.
  • A district spokesperson tells Axios the board is "reviewing its book policy" and that parents can submit a form to prohibit their children from checking out specific materials. So far, three children's parents have.

What they're saying: Ohio Library Council's executive director Michelle Francis believes parents should decide what their kids can read — but says they shouldn't try to take that choice away from other parents.

  • "We believe in the freedom to read," Francis tells Axios. "As public libraries, it's our job and responsibility to provide materials for everyone, because we are open to all."

Zoom out: Nobel Prize-winning Ohio author Toni Morrison's 1970 novel "The Bluest Eye" was the country's third-most-challenged book in 2022. It focuses on a Black girl growing up after the Depression who is seen as "ugly" due to her dark skin.

What we're watching: Banned Books Week, a nationwide "annual celebration of the freedom to read," is happening Oct. 1-7.

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