Record number of book titles challenged in 2023 — here’s how Texas fared

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The American Library Association found a record number of unique book titles were challenged in schools and libraries across the United States during 2023, with 4,240 individual book titles challenged. Those efforts marked a 65% increase in the number of targeted titles compared to 2,571 titles challenged in 2022, ALA said in its 2023 report.

Here in Texas, ALA's reporting found there were 49 attempts to limit access to books statewide during 2023. Included in those 49 attempts were 1,470 challenged book titles.

This is the most banned book in Texas

Texas came second in the country for the number of challenged titles, falling only behind Florida. ALA's research revealed there were 33 attempts to restrict access to books, with 2,672 individual titles challenged as part of those attempts.

Nationally, ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom noted 1,247 individual demands and attempts to limit access to library books, materials and resources last year. Among that reporting, ALA found public and school libraries were at the center of many attempts' focuses.

At public libraries, censorship attempts rose 92% in 2023 compared to 2022; for school libraries, that figure increased by 11%.

Among all titles targeted through censorship efforts, 47% of those books centered around "the voices and lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC individuals," reporting confirmed.

Seventeen states nationwide were home to more than 100 titles challenged through censorship efforts:

Colorado Connecticut Florida Idaho Illinois Iowa Kentucky Maryland Missouri North Carolina Ohio Pennsylvania Tennessee Texas Utah Virginia Wisconsin

"Every challenge to a library book is an attack on our freedom to read. The books being targeted again focus on LGBTQ+ and people of color. Our communities and our country are stronger because of diversity. Libraries that reflect their communities' diversity promote learning and empathy that some people want to hide or eliminate,” ALA President Emily Drabinski said in the March release. “Libraries are vital institutions to each and every community in this country, and library professionals, who have dedicated their lives to protecting our right to read, are facing threats to their employment and well-being." 

The Texas Legislature passed in 2023 House Bill 900, titled the "Restricting Explicit and Adult-Designated Educational Resources Act." The law aimed to require book publishers and sellers to offer content ratings for books.

Texas ‘book ban’ law blocked by 5th Circuit Appeals Court

However, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in mid-January that the law was unconstitutional and violated the First Amendment's protection against compelled speech. As part of its determination, the judges highlighted issues with the law's "vendor-rating system" that would require both publishers and booksellers to offer a content rating of "sexually explicit," "sexually relevant" or "no rating" on all books sold to a Texas library.

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