October 1 – October 7 is Banned Books Week
According to the American Library Association (ALA), “Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read and spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. For more than 40 years, the annual event has brought together the entire book community — librarians, teachers, booksellers, publishers, writers, journalists, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”
ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago. The unparalleled number of reported book challenges in 2022 nearly doubles the 729 book challenges reported in 2021.
We invite you to take action on “Let Freedom Read” Day – October 7, 2023!
To better explore the issue of banned books, LWVN is inviting all community members to join us in a December book group discussion on one of the most banned books of the last two years, Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe. We will be discussing the book (and other books on the banned books list, if you are inclined to read others), why it has caused so many schools and libraries to remove it from the shelves, whether LWVN or any League should take a position on book banning, and more.
Following the discussion, we invite all to celebrate with us the holiday season and join in some holiday cheer. More details to follow.
For more information on Banned Books, read below.
American Library Association: “The theme for Banned Books Week 2023 is “Let Freedom Read.” When we ban books, we’re closing off readers to people, places, and perspectives. But when we stand up for stories, we unleash the power that lies inside every book. We liberate the array of voices that need to be heard and the scenes that need to be seen. Let freedom read!”
- American Library Association’s Top Challenged Books of 2022
“[Book bans] diminish the quality of education students have access to and restrict their exposure to important perspectives that form the fabric of a culturally pluralist society like the United States,” explains TC’s Sonya Douglass, Professor of Education Leadership. “It’s a battle over the soul of the country in many ways; it’s about what we teach young people about our country, what we determine to be the truth, and what we believe should be included in the curriculum they’re receiving. There’s a lot at stake there.”
- PEN America – The 11 Most Banned Books of 2022-2023
- NY Times – Sept 21, 2023 – Book Bans Are Rising Sharply in Public Libraries
- Teachers College Columbia University – What You Need to Know About the Book Bans Sweeping the U.S.
“Why Is Banning Books Legal? While legal battles over book censorship in schools consistently unfold at local levels, the wave of book bans across the U.S. surfaces a critical question: why hasn’t the United States had more definitive legal closure on this issue? In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a noncommittal ruling that continues to keep school and library books in the political crosshairs more than 40 years later. In Island Trees Union Free School District v. Pico (1982), the Court deemed that “local school boards have broad discretion in the management of school affairs” and that discretion “must be exercised in a manner that comports with the transcendent imperatives of the First Amendment.”
But what does this mean in practice? In these kinds of cases, the application of the First Amendment hinges on the existence of evidence that books are banned for political reasons and violate freedom of expression. However, without more explicit guidance, school boards often make decisions that prioritize “community values” first and access to information second.”
- LWV Florida Education Action Team White Paper on Understanding Florida’s Book Challenges in Schools and Their Consequences for Students
The League of Women Voters of Florida encourages advocacy to fight book bans and suggests action steps, among which include the following:
– Find out what your rights are and decide how much risk you are willing to take as an advocate against book censorship.
– Learn about the history of book censorship and why it occurs.
– Become familiar with books being banned today and what the objections to them are.
– Identify features of these books that will benefit students.
– Follow legislation to identify any bills, pro or con, addressing book bans, and communicate with sponsors of these bills to share your concerns.
– Join a banned book club and learn about groups organized to advocate against school bans on books.
– Educate others and build support.
– Identify League members and others who share your concerns and begin planning collaborative advocacy initiatives.