Nashville: ‘I Read Forbidden Books’ Library Card Campaign Launched

Earlier this year, “Maus,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the experiences of Holocaust survivors, was removed from the eighth grade English art curriculum in McMinn County, Tennessee. The district’s education board said the decision was made over concerns about “rough, offensive language” and a drawing of a naked woman.

The board of directors voted 10-0 to remove the book from the curriculum and said it should be replaced, if possible, with another book without content deemed objectionable.

And in February, Williamson County Schools, a school district about 30 miles south of Nashville, confirmed the removal of Sharon Creech’s “Walk Two Moons” from the elementary school curriculum. The book is about a girl with Native American roots who travels from Ohio to Idaho with her eccentric grandparents.
“I want Nashvillians to know: The Nashville Public Library will always respect your freedom to read — to independently control what you read and don’t read, and to play your part in determining what your children read,” says NPL director Kent Oliver. said in a press release announcing the campaign’s launch.

The library’s campaign comes at a time when school and public libraries are facing an unprecedented number of book bans across the country.

Last year, according to the American Library Association, there were 729 challenges to library, school and college materials and services. That’s more than 156 and 377 challenges reported to the group in 2020 and 2019, respectively, the most since the organization began tracking such challenges in 2000.

According to a recent analysis by PEN America, more than 1,500 books were banned in 86 school districts in 26 states in the United States between July 31, 2021 and March 31, 2022.
Challenges to books in American schools are not new, but the speed with which they have happened recently is “unparalleled,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of PEN America’s Free Expression and Education program and lead author of the PEN America report.
But the nationwide challenges are also inspiring young readers to start banned book clubs, and the Brooklyn Public Library has offered young readers across the country free library cards and access to banned books.

The Nashville Library campaign is our way of bringing our community together in our shared freedom to read, which is essential to sustaining our democracy.

The NPL card is free to all residents and existing cardholders in Davidson County, where Nashville is located. The promotion runs until May 26.

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