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Legislation would ensure ‘diverse’ selection of books in school libraries

  • / Updated:
  • Staff Report 

Senator Rachel May (D-48) has proposed a new bill, the Freedom to Read Act, which mandates that school districts guarantee student access to a diverse selection of age-appropriate materials in school libraries.

Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell (D-69) is set to introduce a corresponding bill in the Assembly.

PEN America, a non-profit organization dedicated to free expression, reported a sharp increase in book banning occurrences during the first half of the 2022-2023 academic year. Nearly 1,500 book banning incidents were recorded, involving over 850 titles, marking a 28% rise compared to the previous six months.

The top five states with the highest rates of book banning are Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah, and South Carolina. Books primarily targeted for banning focus on race and LGBTQ+ themes and topics.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that children are more eager to read books featuring characters they can relate to. Additionally, shielding children from negative or harsh realities, such as the history of slavery or injustice, can lead to less resilience and vigilance in preventing similar outcomes in the future.

Senator Rachel May expressed her dedication to free expression and diverse perspectives in New York State, stating, “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.”