Where do state Right to Read Acts stand nationally?

a stack of three books with rainbow ribbon bookmarks is on the table. Concept back to school, freedom, independence. Right to read.
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As right-wing extremists have ratcheted up their attacks on public and school libraries in recent years, members of a number of state legislatures have introduced bills that would protect libraries in their state from book bans targeting LGBTQ+ books or programs serving marginalized communities. The need for these laws grows increasingly dire. According to data from the American Library Association, there was a 92% increase in requests to ban books in public libraries between 2022 and 2023.

However, given the glacial pace of the legislative process, introducing a bill is a long way from a bill becoming law. After a bill is introduced, either in the House or Senate, it is referred to the appropriate committee of that chamber. If it surmounts this first obstacle and is voted out of committee, it is taken up on the full floor of that chamber, then voted on. If the bill passes, it has to repeat the process in the other chamber. Assuming it passes, it goes to the governor, who either signs it or vetoes it.

Of course, the actual process is more complicated and time-consuming than herein described, but that’s the bare bones of it. Furthermore, at any point in the process, a bill can die through attrition, or be killed through political maneuvering.

Clearly, the gauntlet facing bills seeking to protect libraries from book bans as well as protecting the right to read is steep indeed. The current status is very much a mixed bag, with some bills making progress, while some are stuck in committee, or simply didn’t make enough progress during a legislative session. 


Illinois: In summer 2023, Gov. J.B. Pritzker made Illinois the first — and so far the only — state to block book bans. Public schools and libraries that limit or ban materials on “partisan or personal” disapproval were ineligible for state funding as of Jan. 1.

Washington: Hard on Illinois’ heels, Washington’s anti-book ban bill has passed the House and Senate, and it is sitting on Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk awaiting signature.

Death by Committee

Pennsylvania: A right to read bill was introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate last fall and referred to committee in October. However, the bill has languished in committee since then, blocked by Senate Republicans. At this point, the bill may die a quiet death in committee without even being brought to a vote.

Colorado: An anti-book ban bill in Colorado, introduced in January, has failed in the Senate Education Committee.

Kansas: A bill to curtail book bans in Kansas, also introduced in January, continues to sit without action in the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs. If no action is taken by the end of the current legislative session, the bill dies.

Good Progress, But…

Maryland: A promising Freedom to Read Act was concurrently introduced in the House and Senate and was voted out of committee in both chambers. While a vote was expected earlier this month, it ended up being delayed while the legislative language was tweaked. Observers remain optimistic that the bill will pass in both chambers.

Vermont: A library protection bill was introduced in the Senate in January, and was passed out of committee quickly. In the Senate, an amendment was added to make the bill applicable to both public and school libraries. On March 27, the Senate passed it by a vote of 23-6. It now goes to the house.

Delaware: On March 26, the Delaware Libraries for All Act was passed by the House by a vote by a vote of 30-5. It now goes to the Senate.

Minnesota: Minnesota introduced its right to read legislation in late February. The bill sailed through committee quickly and has advanced in the state House.

Connecticut: A bill prohibiting most book bans in schools was introduced on March 6 and referred to the Joint Committee on Education. It was passed out of committee on March 20, and introduced to the Assembly on March 22. It has not been scheduled for consideration yet, but the bill seems to be on a fast track.

Waiting Game

Massachusetts: A holistic bill to curb book bans and protect library workers was proposed earlier this year. Massachusetts is unique in how its state legislature works, so the bill has yet to do much movement, but it is expected to pick up again during the summer session.

New Jersey: The Garden State reintroduced a revised Freedom to Read Act earlier this year in the Senate. Unfortunately, there has yet to be much action taken on the legislation in either chamber of the Assembly. Several representatives statewide have been vocal about it, including those representing districts where book bans have been in abundance.

Dead On Arrival

New Mexico: New Mexico was one of the first states to propose an anti-book ban this year. Unfortunately, the bill stalled and never made it far enough to be heard this session. It is currently dead, but there is hope it can be reintroduced next session.

Oregon: This is another case where the clock ran out. Despite early positive movement, Oregon’s book ban bill ultimately died, not due to vote but due to not being heard before the legislative session ended.

Virginia: The anti-book ban measures proposed in Virginia passed through both the House and the Senate. It would ban book bans by school boards. However, the bill will not go into law, since Gov. Glen Youngkin vetoed it.


This is by no means an exhaustive list. Legislation regarding book bans and libraries are often tacked onto other bills as amendments, or slipped in as a line item on various omnibus bills, making them difficult to keep track of prior to being enacted.

However, this does paint a general picture of how the battle over libraries and the right to read is shaping up on the state level. It is perhaps disappointing that prominent blue states like California and New York have yet to step up, but it’s not surprising that most deep red states like Florida, Texas and Tennessee haven’t even bothered to try to protect their libraries. Hopefully the federal Right to Read Act recently introduced to Congress will eventually pass and provide libraries some protection from right-wing extremist assaults.

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