(WASHINGTON)— PEN America today joined with members of Congress Maxwell Frost (FL-10), Jamie Raskin (MD-8), and Frederica Wilson (FL-24) for a press conference to mark introduction of the Fight Book Bans Act, which would provide federal grants to reimburse school districts that spend valuable resources on book challenges and review processes.

PEN America has endorsed the bill, along with Florida Freedom to Read Project, Students Engaged in Advancing Texas, Interfaith Alliance, Color of Change, American Library Association, Equality Florida, UnidosUS, the Trevor Project, the National Urban League, and the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Laura Schroeder, Congressional affairs lead for PEN America, said: “Banning books in schools is not only unpopular; it’s expensive. As school districts around the country divert resources to address widespread efforts to curtail students’ freedom to read, it is once again students who suffer the most. PEN America thanks Congressmembers Frost, Raskin, and Wilson for their leadership in introducing the Fight Book Bans Act, which will help school districts defend the freedom to read.”

When books are challenged, they are often removed from the shelf for review, a process that can take months. At least 48% of book ban instances in PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans from July 2021 to June 2023 fit this category of a banned title that was removed during a review to determine what restrictions, if any, to implement. These reviews, if completed under procedural best practices, require administrative time by district leaders, librarians, and educators, resulting in thousands of dollars spent per book challenge. 

PEN America has been at the forefront of documenting and defending against the unprecedented rise of school book bans nationwide. In its most recent report, Florida, Texas, and Missouri recorded the highest number of book bans. Black and LGBTQ+ authors and books about race, racism, and LGBTQ identities have been disproportionately affected in the book bans documented by PEN America. The wave of book banning since the fall of 2021 is worse than anything seen in decades. From July 2021 to June 2023, PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans recorded 5,894 instances of book bans across 41 states and 247 public school districts.

PEN America has previously endorsed the Right to Read Act, introduced by Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07), which would reaffirm that First Amendment protections extend to school libraries.

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.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057