Mar 19, 2024 - News

Iowa is a book ban hotspot

Book titles challenged in public schools and libraries, 2023
Data: American Library Association; Map: Rahul Mukherjee/Axios

Almost 260 book titles were challenged in Iowa's public schools last year, among the most in the nation, according to new data from the American Library Association (ALA).

Why it matters: Some of the most challenged books deal with themes of social justice, discrimination and inequality.

  • The objections are often made to protect kids but can nonetheless diminish access to viewpoints and cause harm, according to the ALA.

By the numbers: Nationally, 4,240 different titles were targeted for censorship in the past year, compared with the previous record of 2,571 in 2022, Axios' Jennifer Kingson reports.

  • Iowa had the seventh-most challenged titles in the nation and more than all surrounding states, except Wisconsin where there were 448.

Caveat: ALA considers its tally a snapshot, noting its list doesn't include book challenges that were not reported to the group or covered by the media.

  • PEN America, a group that champions authors' rights, recorded 3,362 book bans in the 2022-2023 school year, up 33% from the prior year.

Zoom in: An Iowa law passed last year resulted in some districts removing books like "The Color Purple." That legislation is temporarily blocked after a judge ruled it was "incredibly broad."

  • A bill introduced this year that appears to be dead would have repealed an Iowa law requiring local governments to levy taxes for public libraries.

What they're saying: It's parents' responsibility to monitor what their children are reading or watching, DSM Public Library (DMPL) director Susan Woody told us last year.

  • Yes, but: Some metro-area parents contend books containing sexual content are inappropriate for certain school ages and should be restricted.

📚 Reality check: Banned books often get a circulation bump.


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