With free expression and the freedom to read being undermined in America’s schools, Congressman Jamie Raskin today introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives condemning the spread of book bans in schools nationwide, as Senator Brian Schatz leads a companion resolution in the U.S. Senate. PEN America commends the lawmakers’ efforts, which reaffirm Congress’ commitment to upholding free expression in the classroom and beyond.

The resolutions, which commemorate Banned Books Week, acknowledge “the central role books play in democratic and civil discourse” and call attention to “the illegitimate processes being used to ban books in K-12 classrooms, universities, prisons, and libraries.” They rebuke the accelerating imposition of book bans that have prevented the teaching of critically acclaimed literature and unduly targeted books featuring lead characters from marginalized communities, in particular LGBTQ+ and Black Americans. These bans censor open inquiry and feed a climate of silencing among educators and the undermining of First Amendment rights for students.

The lawmakers’ resolutions come on the heels of a groundbreaking report Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools, which PEN America released on Monday. The report identifies 2,532 instances of books being banned in 138 school districts in 32 states over the 2021-2022 school year. 

“Book bans are a blatant affront to free expression, the lifeblood of our democracy,” said Nadine Farid Johnson, managing director of PEN America Washington and Free Expression Programs. “Encroachments on open inquiry in the classroom stifle the free exchange of ideas essential to public education and too often exclude the voices of marginalized communities from the conversation, sending a chilling message to educators and students that certain ideas and perspectives are unworthy.”

“The rights to free expression enshrined in the First Amendment do not end at the schoolhouse gate. Amid brazen trends of censorship targeting our nation’s classrooms, PEN America lauds Congressman Raskin’s and Senator Schatz’s resolutions, which are incisive reaffirmations of First Amendment principles.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.