On Monday, April 24, the first national Right to Read Day was held. Organized by the American Library Association (ALA), and kicking off National Library Week, Right to Read Day was established as a call to action in response to the past few years of attacks on access to, and even the existence of, certain books – overwhelmingly those with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ characters, themes, and information (check out the top 13 challenged books of 2022 to see what I mean).
While ALA’s Unite Against Book Bans, and other organizations, highlighted going to the library and checking out banned books as a primary action that can be taken, simply checking out books in the long run is not the most effective and proactive action that you can take to support the right to read and access to books showing diverse points of view and factual information. [But do go checkout banned books, too!]
So, what can you do to help in the fight against censorship and book banning?
There are several sources for current information about the scope of the concerted efforts to limit access to books. Organizations such as EveryLibrary, PEN America, the Freedom to Read Foundation, and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) provide access to news, resources, advocacy, and ways to take action.
- Kelly Jensen of BookRiot is doing extensive work on the topic of censorship and book bans, providing resources, news, and action items. I highly recommend reading her weekly accounting of censorship news about the attacks on your freedom to read nationwide also found at Literary Activism.
- The Fight for the American Public Library
- PEN America Report – Banned in the USA: State Laws Supercharge Book Suppression in Schools (July – December 2022)
- PEN America Report – Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools (July 2021 – June 2022)
- We Need Diverse Books – Book Banning Resources
- “EveryLibrary is monitoring state legislation during the 2023-2024 session that would limit Americans' freedom to read and think for themselves.” As of 4/25/23, 116 pieces of legislation of concern have already been introduced.
- 2022 Book Bans Data from Unite Against Book Bans – Unique titles targeted increased by 713 titles from 2021 to 2022. Attempts to ban books increased by 540 from 2021 to 2022 reaching the highest number of attempts since ALA started keeping records over 20 years ago. Note this only includes reported attempts at bannings and does not include any quiet censorship taking place.
- The Political Librarian (Spring 2023, Vol. 6 Issue 1) – Published by EveryLibrary, this issue includes several scholarly articles about librarianship, censorship and book banning.
One of the most basic and important things you can do is vote. Vote in state and national elections, but also pay attention to local elections – school boards, library boards. No election is too small, and you can have a huge impact by getting involved at the local level. Go to school board and library board meetings, or become part of your school board and library board. They are both the most direct way you can work to guarantee your local organizations are dedicated to preserving the right to read. Want to go bigger? Write letters to legislators and government officials. Protest. Join or start a campaign for the right to read – for example, EveryLibrary’s Fight for the First.
Some good places to find out how to get involved:
- How to Fight Book Bans and Challenges: An Anti-Censorship Tool Kit
- This Is How You Can Protect Your Local Library
- Book Bans Affect Everybody – Here's How You Can Help
- Fight for the First
- Libraries for the People and EveryLibrary Want to Help You Get Involved with Your Library
- How to Talk About Book Bans with Friends, Library Patrons and More
- How to Fight Book Bans -and Win
- Get Ready, Stay Ready: A Community Action Toolkit
- ALA’s Fight Censorship Resource Clearinghouse
- Provide access to targeted books to the kids kids and teens who need them. Find a Books Unbanned program here.
This country is in the midst of one of its greatest threats to intellectual freedom, access to diverse viewpoints and ideas, and the right to read in its history. In addition, these attacks are moving beyond just targeting books, but targeting people – teachers, school librarians and media specialists, and public librarians – and the institutions they work in with threats and violence. Get involved and take action to protect your right to read, as well as those who educate and provide access to books across the country.