CHICAGO — Governor JB Pritzker was joined by Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, advocates, and lawmakers today at the Harold Washington Library to sign legislation outlawing book bans in Illinois. This nation-leading legislation comes in the wake of a nationwide rise in extremists targeting literature, libraries, and books in an effort to censor the material students need to thrive in the classroom. Targeted books cover a wide range of categories and predominantly consists of stories by and about People of Color and the LGBTQ+ community.

“Here in Illinois, we don’t hide from the truth, we embrace it,” said Governor JB Pritzker “Young people shouldn’t be kept from learning about the realities of our world; I want them to become critical thinkers, exposed to ideas that they disagree with, proud of what our nation has overcome, and thoughtful about what comes next. Everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in the books they read, the art they see, the history they learn. In Illinois, we are showing the nation what it really looks like to stand up for liberty.”

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“I’m proud that our administration is standing in the gap for literary justice and equity by becoming the first state in the nation to prevent book banning, so that our children and communities can be represented, and have access to reading material that celebrates our diversity and uniqueness,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “Now more than ever, efforts to censor educational and social reading materials are on the rise, and we cannot let extreme views harm LGBTQ+ communities or BIPOC authors and readers, simply because of who they are or who they love.”

This legislation, HB2789, protects the freedom of libraries to acquire materials without external limitations. Prior to this, Illinois law did not provide such protections and according to Chicago-based American Library Association (ALA), there were 67 attempts to ban books in Illinois in 2022. Just this past year, PEN American reported 1,477 instances of books being banned nationwide during the first half of the 2022-23 school year, affecting 874 individual titles.

HB2789 tasks the Illinois State Librarian and the Illinois State Library with adopting the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, statewide. This bill of rights indicates that reading materials should not be proscribed, removed, or restricted because of partisan or personal disproval. Illinois libraries would only be eligible for state-funded grants if they adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights.

Alternatively, the State Librarian and State Library can work together to develop their own written statement declaring that every library or library system must provide an adequate collection of books and other materials to satisfy the people of Illinois.

“I initiated this legislation to stand up and fight for libraries, librarians, and the freedom of speech – especially at this perilous time for our democracy,” said Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias. “The concept of banning books contradicts the very essence of what our country stands for. It also defies what education is all about: teaching our children to think for themselves. This landmark legislation is a triumph for our democracy, a win for First Amendment Rights, and a great victory for future generations.”

“This announcement today is important for our democracy because it protects access, and as a former educator, I have seen firsthand what the lack of access means for our communities – access to voting rights, access to gender rights, access to health care, and access to fully funded schools,” said Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson. “We cannot continue turning the clock back on children who have already experienced decades of disinvestment, so I applaud this legislation, and stand in full support of this movement to continue providing access to the rich and dynamic cultures that our students and educators represent.”

"I believe in an Illinois where children are not lied to—in which they are free to learn and explore, and in which everyone is equally free to speak and to be heard when they share their stories and unique lived experiences,” said State Representative Anne Stava-Murray, (D-Downers Grove). “The books in our libraries should be chosen by librarians, not extremist politicians. Other states may choose to embrace prejudice and divisive ideologies, but our state is going in a better direction.”

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“This is a historic day, one that Illinoisans should be proud of, because it is the day that we stood up to defend our public libraries,” said State Senator Laura Murphy, (D-Des Plaines). “A public library is the heart of a community. It doesn’t matter how much money someone has or what their background is—everyone from all walks of life can go to a public library and learn equally. It is so important that we protect the right of people to read information that might be different from their experience or might expose them to different ideas, because the worst thing that happens is education.”

“There are few perils to our democracy as dangerous as book bans. They threaten the very freedom of thought and speech that underpin our republic,” said Dan Montgomery, President, Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT). “That’s why the IFT supports this bill and thanks Governor Pritzker for signing it, Secretary of State Giannoulias for advancing it, and all the legislators who passed it. At a time when some other states are fanning the flames of racism and anti-LGBTQ+ fear, we're proud that Illinois has once again taken a stand for what is right."

“Thank you Governor Pritzker, Secretary Giannoulias, Sen. Murphy, and Rep. Stava-Murray, for enacting this first-in-the-nation bill to fight book bans. According to the American Library Association, the two most challenged books in 2022 were works focused on LGBTQ+ identity. But we know access to age-appropriate LGBTQ+ affirming content is critical to the well-being of LGBTQ+ young people,” said Equality Illinois Director of Public Policy Mike Ziri. “As we contemplate the positive impact of this new law, we appreciate the grassroots leadership of librarians, trustees, families, and LGBTQ+ youth who are resisting book bans and ensuring that all families, including LGBTQ+ people, are represented in the collections accessible at libraries. HB 2789 is therefore consistent with the values of Illinois to advance inclusion, equality, and the freedom to love and be who we are without discrimination.”

In addition to signing this legislation, Governor Pritzker has taken action over the past several months to continue fighting censorship in the classroom. In January, the Governor sent a letter to the CEO of the College Board, demanding they reverse the decision to remove crucial parts of the curriculum from the Advanced Placement course in African American Studies after pressure to do so from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

In response to the signing, Democratic Party of Illinois Chair Lisa Hernandez released the following statement:

“I applaud the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Pritzker for taking action to defend our schools and libraries from attacks on access to accurate information and diverse stories, and I’m grateful to Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, our State’s Librarian, who led this effort to defend Illinoisans’ freedom. Removing books from our shelves represents a dangerous backslide into a world where a small but loud minority can silence anyone who looks, loves, or believes differently than they do. As extreme right wing groups attempt to place candidates with their regressive values into local offices across Illinois and the nation, it’s as important as ever that we step up to defend our children, their freedoms, and their futures,” said DPI Chair Lisa Hernandez.

This past week, Governor Pritzker joined a number of other governors to urge textbook publishers including the Association of American Publishers, Cengage Learning, Goodheart-Willcox, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw Hill Education, Pearson, Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, Savvas Learning Co., Scholastic, and Teachers Curriculum Institute to not censor educational materials in the face of additional pressure from republicans.

Governor Pritzker also included $1.6 million in the FY24 state budget to launch Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library statewide. This initiative includes a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth to age five, no matter a family’s income.

The new law will take effect January 1, 2024.

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