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Sharp rise in parents seeking to ban anti-racist books in US schools

Demands by parents to remove books from library shelves addressing racism soared in the US in 2020, the American Library Association has revealed.

An annual list that is regularly dominated by titles covering LGBTQ+ issues, the ALA’s Top 10 most challenged books contains a number of anti-racism titles for the first time in 2020. Although the list was topped for the third year running by Alex Gino’s George, the story of a fourth-grade transgender girl, Ibram X Kendi and Jason Reynolds’ Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, a history of racism for children and teens, was the year’s second most challenged title. In their complaints, parents claimed that Stamped contained “selective storytelling incidents” and “does not encompass racism against all people”, said the ALA.

In response, Kendi, a historian of race, said that he was proud of the work he and Reynolds had done on the book, and “not at all surprised” to hear it made the Top 10.

“It is ironic that our book is being challenged since it documents how generations of Americans have challenged the idea that the racial groups are equals and have fought to suppress the very truths contained on every page of Stamped. The heartbeat of racism is denial, and the history in Stamped will not be denied, nor will young people’s access to this book be cancelled,” he said in a statement to School Library Journal.

The ALA pointed to the parents of children at a school in New Jersey who sought the removal of Stamped. A teacher resigned after she claimed the parents had been harassing her by email and phone. After protests by members of two New Jersey library associations, the book was retained by the school, although no staff member

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