Book challenges and bans are increasing in libraries and schools throughout the United States. To help spread the word about these activities and efforts to combat them by librarians, parents, students, politicians, and concerned citizens, I Love Libraries will highlight several stories each week on the current crisis. This roundup includes reports from Missouri and Texas, news on an organization’s attempts to hide LGBTQ+ books, and authors and celebs speaking out against books bans.
MLA implores Missouri school to stop banning books
The Missouri Library Association (MLA) sent a letter to Wentzville (Mo.) School District (WSD) on June 9 regarding the WSD board’s vote to remove Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic from the school’s libraries, saying the move hurts student learning. The letter is signed by members of the Missouri Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee.
“We are aware of your present predicament with the ACLU and federal courts, negative media coverage, and push back from all sides, and must assume that the extent of the aforementioned boondoggle is clear to you,” the letter states. “[R]emoving this work does not, certainly, protect LGBTQ+ youth, who need access to authentic representations of Queer experience to provide context for growing up in a predominantly ‘straight’ society, just as cis/heterosexual children benefit from perspectives like Bechdel’s that help them empathize with and understand the broader scope of human experience.”
Texas Attorney General wants to aid county being sued over banned books
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wants his office to help defend officials in Llano County who are being sued for restricting and banning books from their public library system, reports the Texas Tribune.
In a June 8 court filing, Paxton asked a federal district court to let the state intervene in the lawsuit, which was filed by seven Llano County residents in April. “According to the lawsuit,” says the Tribune, “Llano County officials removed several books from shelves, suspended access to digital library books, replaced the library board members with people who favor book bans, halted new book orders and allowed the board to close its meetings to the public in a coordinated censorship campaign that violates the First and 14th Amendments.”
These are the authors of color who censors are trying to silence
Young adult authors of color are fed up with being targeted, reports CNN. Eliot C. McLaughlin spoke with writers Tiffany Jackson (Monday's Not Coming), Jerry Craft (New Kid), Jewell Parker Rhodes (Ghost Boys), and Jason Reynolds (All American Boys) who say that “they're writing books they wish they'd had growing up.” But “watching online clips of parents yelling about their work at school board meetings, they often don't recognize the literature being described.”
Conservative group urges parents to “Hide the Pride”
The controversial conservative organization CatholicVote is urging parents to “Hide the Pride” during Pride Month by checking out LGBTQ-related books at their local libraries so children can’t see them. The Hill reports that, in addition to checking out materials, the organization also suggests parents write letters complaining about Pride Month displays and materials.
LeVar Burton speaks out
“I’ll be absolutely candid and honest: It’s embarrassing that we are banning books in this country, in this culture, in this day and age,” said actor and former Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton, during a June 8 appearance on The View, where he discussed the legacy of Reading Rainbow and his thoughts on the rise in book banning in the US. He continued: “Read the books they’re banning,” he added. “That’s where the good stuff is.”
Alarmed by the escalating attempts to censor books? Here are five steps you can take now to protect the freedom to read.
1. Follow news and social media in your community and state to keep apprised of organizations working to censor library or school materials.
2. Show up for library workers at school or library board meetings and speak as a library advocate and community stakeholder who supports a parent’s right to restrict reading materials for their own child but not for all
3. Help provide a safety net for library professionals as they defend intellectual freedom in their communities by giving to the LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund.
4. Educate friends, neighbors, and family members about censorship and how it harms communities. Share information from Banned Books Week 2021.
5. Join the Unite Against Book Bans movement to learn what you can do to defend the freedom to read in your community.