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New York Public Library provides nationwide ebook access to commonly banned books

Several school districts across the country have proposed banning these four books because they explore themes like race and sexuality.

WASHINGTON — What do the books "Speak," "King and the Dragonflies," "The Catcher and the Rye" and "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You" all have in common? They're all commonly-banned books in school districts, but New York Public Library wants to make sure anyone who wants to can still access them. 

From now through the end of May, people nationwide will be able to browse, borrow and read these four books through the library's free e-reader app, SimplyE, available on iOS and Android devices. Users do not need to pay a fee or obtain an NYPL library card to access these titles. 

In a statement uploaded to NYPL's website, Tony Marx, President of NYPL, said that the decision to make these books more widely available to the public was a direct response to recent efforts in various states to ban books in schools that explore themes like race and sexuality, which Marx described as "an all-out attack on the very foundation of our democracy." 

"All people have the right to read or not read what they want—we are all entitled to make those choices," Marx wrote. "But to protect those freedoms, the books and information must remain available. Any effort to eliminate those choices stands in opposition to freedom of choice, and we cannot let that happen."

The effort came together as part of a partnership with publishers Hachette Book Group, Macmillan Publishers, and Scholastic, the library explained. 

The four books made available by NYPL are just four of dozens of titles that school districts have considered censoring. 

A number of schools around the country through the years have pulled "Speak" and "The Catcher and the Rye" from their shelves, with administrators raising concerns about "Speak" for depicting sexual assault, and parents complaining "Catcher" was too explicit in portraying sex.

"King and the Dragonflies" and "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You" were included in 86 formal removal requests from Texas parents over the last year. "King" includes a Black queer character who grows up in the South, and "Stamped" is a historical account of racism in the U.S. from historian Ibram X. Kendi's original novel, revised for young adults. 

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