More books are being banned and censored across the country than just a few years ago, according to a new report from PEN America.
And Texas continues to lead the nation in instances of banned titles, with 438.
In its report out Thursday called Banned in the USA: State Laws Supercharge Book Suppression in Schools, the group says book censorship and ban lists are expanding because those demanding removal of books have evolved.
Jonathan Friedman, PEN America's director of free expression and education, said a few years ago, just after the pandemic began, parent-led organizations demanded removal of books.
"The loudest voices had been a very vocal minority, but a distinct minority," Friedman said.
That's now expanded to local legislatures, which are increasingly pushing to have book bans encoded in state law.
Friedman cited Jarred Patterson's Texas House Bill 900, which would force book publishers to put age restrictions on books, like a movie rating system.
Friedman calls it a solution in search of a problem.
"It's unnecessary to put that kind of new restriction on publishers," Friedman said. "They already put age recommendations on books."
State Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, who authored HB 900, did not return a request for comment Thursday.
Many of the books targeted by conservative lawmakers and parents across the country center identities that go unrepresented or underrepresented in literature.
That means many students can't read books often written for and about them, Friedman said.
He added that libraries and schools across the country already have committees assessing age appropriateness of books, and have used those committees for years.
Now Friedman said they're being ignored based on parental complaints.
"There is a hyperbolic rhetoric that is circulating around the country that there’s, you know, pornography in schools," he said. "It’s just patently untrue."