This week, Sen. Rachel May (D-48th District) introduced the Freedom to Read Act, requiring school districts to ensure school libraries provide students with access to an array of age-appropriate materials.
Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell (D-69th District) will introduce an Assembly companion bill.
According to PEN America, instances of book banning have skyrocketed during the first half of the 2022-2023 school year. There have been nearly 1,500 instances of book banning, with more than 850 titles prohibited, a 28 percent increase compared to the prior six months.
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PEN America found that Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah and South Carolina are the top five states for book banning, primarily books with race and LGBTQ+ topics and themes.
Ample research shows that children are more excited and, therefore, more likely, to read books that feature characters with whom they can identify. Moreover, "protecting" children from negative information or harsh realities about issues like the history of slavery or injustice makes them less resilient and less vigilant about preventing such outcomes in the future.
“With our rich diversity and our commitment to free expression in New York State, we must ensure students have access to a broad range of materials to let them pursue a love of learning and reading. My bill, the Freedom to Read Act, ensures that students have access to many perspectives that can enrich their minds and broaden their perspectives. Whether they embrace or reject those perspectives, the opportunity to explore challenging ideas is valuable to students' development as learners and as active participants in our society,” said Sen. Rachel May.