While this isn’t really a week to celebrate because censorship and the suppression of diverse voices is never okay, this is a week to lift up the work of educators, librarians, authors, book publishers, anyone who has a hand in making sure everyone’s voice is represented in the books we love. The past few years have seen an increase in school boards across the country banning books in classrooms and libraries. The most egregious, to me, has been the removal of classroom sets of books in Florida. The ALA released early data on the number of challenged books for 2023 so far and its heartbreaking. The data reveals that, “Between January 1 and August 31, 2023, OIF reported 695 attempts to censor library materials and services and documented challenges to 1,915 unique titles – a 20% increase from the same reporting period in 2022, which saw the highest number of book challenges since ALA began compiling the data more than 20 years ago. The vast majority of challenges were to books written by or about a person of color or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.” (https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/book-ban-data) I don’t know about you but this makes me want to fight even harder.
So, what can you do? The ALA provides an cool list of ways you can get involved not just this week but all year round such as volunteer at a library, speak out at a school board meeting, join organizations such as Unite Against Book Bans, purchase and share banned books, and even attend some of the events this week. Check out this page (Banned Books – Get Involved) for more detailed information about how you can help.
Starting today the ALA is hosting a few events that you can gain insight and inspiration. I’m looking forward to Banned Books Week Honorary Chair LeVar Burton’s talk tonight at 8pm EST (5pm for you Cali folk like me) and a roundtable discussion titled “A Seat at the Table: Youth Advocates on Fighting Books Bans” by students leaders doing the hard work on Thursday at 8pm EST/5pm PST. Click on this page (Banned Books – Events) to get more information.
Lastly, Saturday, October 7th is Let Freedom Read Day where the ALA is asking us all to commit to doing at least one thing to help fight against censorship and support those on the front line. On their page (Let Freedom Read) is a list of actions that you could do on Sunday (or any day really), but for me, personally, please send love to a teacher or librarian because we could really use the support. Just saying “I’m there for you” or maybe donating a book to a teacher’s personal classroom library would go far in the fight against censorship. If there is any time to give back to those who promote literacy and representation for all, this is the week to do it.