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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Coral Murphy Marcos

Illinois set to become first state to end book bans

 ‘In Illinois, we don’t hide from the truth,’ Governor JB Pritzker said in a statement when the legislation was introduced in March.
‘In Illinois, we don’t hide from the truth,’ Governor JB Pritzker said in a statement when the legislation was introduced in March. Photograph: Nam Y Huh/AP

Governor JB Pritzker is expected to sign a bill that would make Illinois the first state to legislate to end book bans – by punishing publicly-funded institutions that attempt to censor in that way.

A bill is on Pritzker’s desk after passing the state legislature that would block essential state funding for public libraries and public schools in Illinois that ban books.

Only libraries in the state that adhere to the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, which states that reading materials should not be removed or restricted because of partisan or personal disapproval, or develop a written statement prohibiting the practice of banning books within a library system will continue to get its state funding.

The Illinois senate passed HB 2789 earlier this month and the bill was sent to Democratic governor Pritzker last week, who is now poised to sign it. Once enacted, it takes effect on January 1 next year.

“In Illinois, we don’t hide from the truth,” Pritzker said in a statement when the legislation was introduced in March. “We embrace it and lead with it. Banning books is a devastating attempt to erase our history and the authentic history of many.”

Book bans in US public-sector schools increased by 28% in the first half of the 2022-23 academic year, the writers’ organization PEN America said last month.

The American Library Association’s Chicago chapter said there were 67 attempts to ban books in Illinois in 2022, increasing from 41 the previous year. More than 2,500 books were objected to last year across the country, according to the association.

In one of the most recent incidents in the US, last week in Florida, one parental complaint was enough to have Amanda Gorman’s poem that she wrote and performed for Joe Biden’s 2021 inauguration removed for reading by elementary school children in an educational institution in Miami-Dade county.

The Illinois secretary of state, Alexi Giannoulias, said the new bill is in response to efforts in other states, like Florida, Texas and Arizona, to ban access to reading materials for political and personal reasons.

“The concept of banning books contradicts the very essence of what our country stands for,” Giannoulias, who also serves as the state’s official librarian, said in a statement. “It also defies what education is all about: teaching our children to think for themselves.”

The Illinois legislation comes as members of the far-right Proud Boys have been turning up at school board meetings pressing for restrictions on some liberal books, especially about gender and sexuality, according to various reports in national and local outlets.

The attempts are part of a nationwide outcry from conservatives calling for the ban of books written by or about members of the LGBTQ+ community and people of color.

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