The Texas Library Association has announced the formation of a grassroots coalition, Texans for the Right to Read, to "amplify and unify the voices of librarians, educators, parents, students, authors, and others" who oppose the growing effort to ban books from schools and libraries across the state of Texas.

TLA officials say the coalition will seek to educate the public, as well as work to oppose any "legislation, regulations, or executive orders" that would subjectively infringe upon the freedom to read. The move comes as efforts to ban books, primarily books involving race or LGBTQ issue, have increased dramatically.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has publicly demanded that the state agencies that oversee education and library funding keep "inappropriate” books out of Texas schools, specifically calling out two books involving LGBTQ themes that have been featured in complaints in other states: Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, and In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. According to the Texas Tribune, Abbott has even directed agency officials to open criminal investigations over the offending titles. Abbott’s directive follows a headline-grabbing inquiry, launched in October by a Texas state representative that included a list of some 850 books singled out for scrutiny.

“The right to receive an education is something that is foundational to America,” said Daniel Burgard, TLA president, in a statement. “Possibly the most important skill students learn is how to develop a curious mind and think critically about a broad spectrum of subjects. Removing books based on the subjective opinions of elected officials has no place in our state or our democratic republic.”

No one book is right for everyone, but one book can make a significant difference in one life.

Furthermore, TLA officials point out that there are already well-established processes for concerned parents to challenge books they may find inappropriate. Officials also called out the blatantly political aim of recent legislative efforts to ban books, including a so-called “parental bill of rights” proposed by Abbott, which calls for the potential prosecution of persons alleged to be supplying minors with what might be deemed "inappropriate material."

TLA officials say such a law would lead to frivolous prosecutions and do irreparable harm to educators and professional librarians. “It doesn’t take much to read between the lines and see what is going on here,” said Mary Woodard, TLA president-elect. “Proponents of banning books claim to have children’s best interests at heart, but it is clear that this is about winning votes at the ballot box.”

Woodard emphasized the important role professional librarians play in a student’s life, and called proposals like Abbott's "Parental Bill of Rights" an "all-out attack" on librarians and educators. “Librarians have master’s degrees and receive ongoing training that qualifies them to develop collections to meet the broad and varied interests and needs of students and communities," Woodward said. "The implication by government officials that librarians would intentionally select books that are harmful to students undermines their best efforts and erodes public trust. When librarians are constrained in their ability to choose books, it is students who suffer.”

Burgard said that school libraries must remain "places for voluntary inquiry," adding that "subjectively banning books that make one person uncomfortable" is harmful to communities. "No one book is right for everyone, but one book can make a significant difference in one life.”