Educational books

With increasing book bans nationwide, Eagle County is not spared

Several titles often targeted by book bans are available and shelved at the Vail Public Library.
Tess Weinriech/Vail Daily

The start of the school year is less than a week away for Eagle County schools, which for many students heralds the end-of-summer rush to finish summer reading. But while the students crowd anxiously into what they are obligatory to read, school districts and legislatures across the country may be most concerned about which titles are banned.

In recent years, book banning has steadily increased across the country, with 2021 marking a dramatic resurgence in the practice. The American Library Association tracked 729 challenges to library, school and university materials last year – an all-time high in the organization’s 20 years of data, and more than double the 273 books challenged or prohibited in 2020.

The vast majority of books targeted by the recent wave of bans address topics related to race and LGBTQ content. Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ was the most contested book of 2021, according to the American Library Association. Angie Thomas’ ‘The Hate U Give’, Toni Morrison’s ‘The Bluest Eye’ and ‘This Book is Gay’ , by Juno Dawson are also in the top 10.

Currently there are no school districts with active book bans in Colorado.

Katie Jarnot, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Eagle County Schools, confirmed there have been no challenges to books or instructional materials since taking her current role there. is four years old.

“I am not aware of any challenges we have had in the 12 years I have been in the district,” she added in an email to the Vail Daily.

Current school district policy requires administrators to review curriculum (including books and other materials that will be taught) every five years. Its text specifically calls for considering “program breadth,” “all student populations,” and “equity in education” in this process.

“It is important that school districts have policies like these in place, so that there is a basis for the selection of curriculum and instructional resources and so that any challenges can be met objectively and fairly,” Jarnot wrote.

In Eagle County, the culture war over book bans hasn’t turned classrooms into a battleground. But according to Linda Tillson, Eagle Valley Library District Manager, book challenges are not unheard of in the county. She reported that the Library District typically receives one to two completed Request for Reconsideration forms each year, typically reflecting concerns about “sexual content, LGBTQ+ topics, and age appropriateness.”

Tillson reported that the only challenge that has been approved in recent years removed a children’s book about Thanksgiving that contained an “outdated and inaccurate” depiction of Native Americans.

Review forms are standard procedure in libraries across the United States as a way to collect feedback from a concerned patron about a particular resource. Forms typically request information about the objected item, including whether the objector has reviewed the resource for completeness, the objector’s specific concerns, and what action the objector suggests library staff take (e.g., example, a reclassification, restriction or deletion of the resource).

Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education programs at the Utah Pride Center, poses with books that have been the subject of complaints from parents in Salt Lake City. According to the American Library Association, Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer” was the most contested book of 2021.
Rick Bowmer/AP

Completed forms are reviewed by the library manager who, with the help of other staff members, makes the final decision on how to process the request. Decisions can be appealed and submitted to the Citizens’ Board for reconsideration.

While book bans are historically rare in the state (especially compared to the Kansas border with 30 active bans, Oklahoma with 43 and Utah with 11), challenges and controversy are not. In 2001, the Denver Post reported on a parent’s crusade to ban Lois Lowry’s “The Giver” from classrooms and school curricula, arguing that the book’s discussion of suicide and euthanasia was unsuitable for young readers and fostered a disdain for the human life that could motivate tragedies like the Columbine shootings.

James LaRue, who worked as director of the Douglas County Library from 1990 to 2014, reported that during that time he had received 250 challenges to library materials – more than at any other library he had heard of. talk. The experience motivated him to write “The New Inquisition”, a book exploring modern challenges to intellectual freedom.

In 2016, he left Douglas County to work for the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, where he took on about a challenge a day. He thinks that at this point in his career he has completed over 1,000 challenges.

LaRue, who returned in Colorado to serve as executive director of the Garfield County Library District in May, saw a “wind shift” with the practice of book bans: challenges that were once isolated events, raised by worried parents, were interspersed with more concerted, sometimes political issues.

“It’s not just individuals complaining about a pound, it’s someone showing up with 380 pounds and so it’s a lot more coordinated and less individual,” he said, “The most of these challenges, you should call them partisans.”

LaRue cited groups like Moms4Liberty and CatholicVote, which have launched campaigns to remove controversial subject books. But the politicization of the issue has also occurred at the legislative level.

In 2021, 54 bills in 24 states were introduced to ban books on controversial issues such as race, gender and sexuality. The Colorado House of Representatives reviewed the “Public Education Curriculum And Professional Development Informationbill last year, sponsored by Tim Geitner, a Republican from El Paso County. The bill called on local education providers and school districts to publish a complete list of instructional materials used in PK-12 classrooms, including title, web address, publisher, date of publication and international standard company number for each item. It also stipulated that education providers must provide parents, upon request, with a copy of any book or resource used in the classroom. The bill was introduced and did not pass.

“The new legislation…represents a very concerted attack, not just on a few books that upset people, but trying to remove entire subjects from a public institution,” LaRue said, “it’s a fight for the soul of the institution.”

LaRue said he has already received four Garfield County Library Materials Challenges since joining the district in the spring.

“I believe the best path to life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness is literacy,” LaRue added. “It’s a question worth discussing.”