As the Right Censors Public Libraries, Families Are Forming Banned Book Clubs

In October 2021, Texas Rep. Matt Krause, Republican chair of the House General Investigation Committee, sent a letter to state education authorities asking them if their school libraries stocked any of the 850 “divisive” books on a list he’d compiled….

That idea that a stranger will decide what she can or can’t read angers 14-year-old eighth-grader Joslyn Diffenbaugh. In fact, Diffenbaugh became so incensed that she formed a Banned Books Reading Club for middle and high school students in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, after reading about censorship efforts in Texas and elsewhere. Her mother, Lisa Diffenbaugh, a member of Kutztown Organized for Educational Excellence, told Truthout that while she and her daughter believe that parents can try to restrict what their children read, “They don’t have the right to restrict what other kids can read.”

The Banned Books Reading Club began meeting in a Kutztown bookstore in early January. Its first selection was Animal Farm. Group members are eager to read both long-challenged and newly challenged works, Joslyn says, and will alternate between the two categories. “The response has been amazing,” she says. “Teachers are glad we’ll have an opportunity to read these books.” In addition, donations have poured in, allowing the book shop to provide free copies of the readings to group participants. Even more encouraging, copycat banned book reading groups are popping up throughout the country.

Like Joslyn and Lisa Diffenbaugh, Danielle Hartsfield, an associate professor of education at the University of North Georgia and president of the Children’s Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CLRSIG), is appalled by right-wing efforts to diminish cultural pluralism, invalidate diverse identities and censor books. Toward that end, CLRSIG, she says, trumpets 25 “Notable Books for a Global Society” annually.

truthout As the Right Censors Public Libraries, Families Are Forming Banned Book Clubs