Reading & Literacy Interactive

Book Bans Over the Years, in Charts

By Eesha Pendharkar — April 28, 2023 2 min read
The most banned books from the fall of 2022, according to PEN America.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Book bans have escalated for 18 months now, hitting an all-time high in December 2022.

Since June 2021, PEN America, a free speech advocacy organization that tracks bans, has recorded more than 4,000 book challenges and bans in school districts.

The actual number is estimated to be even higher because PEN America relies on media reports, publicly available documents, and school district meeting minutes to track bans.

Book bans have impacted a wide range of topics, from titles about LGBTQ+ characters, to books on sexual health, to books featuring themes of race and racism.

Here’s a visual representation of book bans, from June 2021 to December 2022, based on PEN America data:

How many books have been banned?

Book bans reached an all-time high during the fall of 2022. But since 2021, PEN America has tracked more than 1,000 instances of book challenges and bans during each six-month period.

What is the No. 1 most banned book?

Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, is the most banned bookover the last 18 months. The graphic memoir both written and illustrated by Kobabe chronicles the author’s life from adolescence to adulthood, detailing their experiences with their gender and sexual identity.

It has been banned 56 times in 18 months.

What is the No. 1 reason books get banned?

Books are frequently challenged for having inappropriate or sexual content, according to PEN America. In 2021 and the first half of 2022, more than 41 percent of banned books were about LGBTQ+ characters or stories. That changed in the latter part of 2022, with most banned books being about sexual experiences, violence, or sexual health.

However, many books about gender and sexual identity that chronicle LGBTQ+ experiences fall under these categories too.

Where do books get removed from?

Books predominantly get removed from school libraries, with only a small percentage of book bans impacting classrooms specifically. Most books are removed pending investigation, meaning that a book is removed whenever there’s a challenge for review.

Many of these books are removed from student access before due process of any kind is carried out, according to PEN America. In some cases, books can also be removed without challenges for review. These books often end up being unavailable for weeks or months.

Where are book bans happening?

Most book bans are happening in Texas and Florida, according to PEN America. Over the past year, Texas has seen more than 1,200 book challenges, and Florida more than 900. In some cases, state laws are responsible for causing districts to remove books to err on the side of caution, the report found. In other cases, districts are removing hundreds of titles for review.

Book bans have been recorded in at least 32 states.

Related Tags:


Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Boosting Student and Staff Mental Health: What Schools Can Do
Join this free virtual event based on recent reporting on student and staff mental health challenges and how schools have responded.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
Practical Methods for Integrating Computer Science into Core Curriculum
Dive into insights on integrating computer science into core curricula with expert tips and practical strategies to empower students at every grade level.
Content provided by

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Here's What Students Miss Out on When Their Schools Lack Librarians
Some administrators think school librarians are obsolete, but these schools prove otherwise.
6 min read
A quiet, secluded dark library with bookcases on either side and a bright light coming in through a window straight ahead with an empty chair near the window.
Reading & Literacy 'Science of Reading' and English-Learner Advocates Reach Common Ground
Two groups have aimed to find consensus in one contested area of the reading wars.
4 min read
Side view of mixed ethnicity school kids sitting on cushions against bookshelves and reading  books in a library.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Reading & Literacy New Tool to Evaluate Reading Programs for 'Knowledge-Building'
The guidelines can help measure whether curricula help build kids' content knowledge using text sets, discussion, and embedded writing.
4 min read
Illustration of checklist.
iStock / Getty Images Plus
Reading & Literacy What the Research Says A Virtual Tutoring Program Boosted Early Literacy Skills. New Research Shows How
A first-of-a-kind study in the early grades finds that an intensive remote tutoring can improve reading skills.
3 min read
Conceptual illustration of student standing in front of computer for online tutoring.
Irina Strelnikova/iStock/Getty