Right to Read Day
April 24, 2023Every Day
PROTECT YOUR FREEDOM TO READ
Thank you to everyone for joining us on the inaugural Right to Read Day on Monday, April 24. All across the country, we saw readers, advocates, and library lovers take action to protect their right to read freely.
On the same day, the American Library Association released its list of the Top 13 Most Challenged Books of 2022, which put on display what we already knew - that the books being most targeted for censorship are those written by or about LGBTQIA+ people and people of color.
Right to Read Day may have been yesterday, but you can take the actions below every day of the year. We challenge you to continue supporting your library and defending the freedom to read in your community by repeating these actions again and again, and to encourage your friends, family, neighbors, and community to join the effort. Fighting censorship will take work from all of us on the local level, and every person that joins the campaign is one more voice to speak out against it when it comes for our communities.
Celebrate Right to Read Day, every day.
1. Check Out (and Read!) a Challenged Book
Yep, this one is that simple.
Libraries keep track of a lot of statistics, among them how frequently books are used in or checked out from the library, or requested via a library lending program like interlibrary loan (ILL). These circulation statistics prove that people want to read challenged or banned titles and support keeping those in, or adding similar titles to, the collection.
Browse the American Library Association's list of Frequently Challenged Books, find one that interests you, and check it out from your library! If they don't have it, request it via ILL and ask that your library purchase a copy. And if the book is already checked out, request that a hold be placed for you for when the book returns.
2. Make a plan to attend your library and school board meetings
Most book ban battles are being fought on the local level at library board, school board, and city council meetings. That makes attending these meetings one of the most critical actions you can take to fend off book bans. Make sure local officials know you support the library and access to books of all kinds by attending, listening, and speaking out against censorship.
Most government and board websites post calendars and agendas for upcoming meetings, and some also livestream them. Even if book bans or collection policies aren't on the agenda, many boards and councils allow comments on issues of concern from any community member.
Our partners at PFLAG have created a helpful guide for speaking at library and school board meetings. The below has been adapted from their Plan to Testify at Local Board Meetings guide.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
Before you head to a board or city council meeting, you'll need to know the following:
- When and where will the meeting take place?
- The policy around public comments:
- Where do public comments fall in the agenda?
- How long do you have to speak during public comments?
- Do you have to register ahead of time to make a public comment?
- Are there any rules for the contents of comments?
- Is there a dress code or a code of conduct attendees are expected to follow?
IMPORTANT THINGS TO CONSIDER
Safety in numbers: gather supporters and encourage them to attend the meeting.
Prepare your remarks ahead of time so you know what you're going to say. Make use of the talking points in the UABB Action Toolkit.
Understanding why a book is being challenged is critical to speaking in its defense. As you make a plan to attend and speak at the meeting:
- Read the book that is being challenged.
- Understand what specifically about the book is making it a target for restriction or removal.
- Research other instances where the book has been challenged in other communities and the outcomes of those challenges.
AT THE MEETING
Introduce yourself: Mention that you are a constituent and any ties to your community.
Introduce and discuss the issue: Raise the topic you are there to discuss (book ban, library policy, library program, etc.).
Make it personal: Why does it matter to you? Does this issue affect your child? Yourself? Your community? Make sure you relate what you are asking for to a personal experience and a local need. Use your emotion to your benefit.
Make the ask: Ask for the board to reject any proposed censorship and uphold the First Amendment.
Thank them: Thank the board or officials for listening to and considering your comments.
BE READY FOR THE NEXT MEETING
Keep track of and make a plan to attend future meetings, and make sure your local network knows about them. Consistently showing up is key!
Make your voice heard by submitting a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or writing directly to your elected officials.
SUBMIT A LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF YOUR LOCAL NEWSPAPER
Writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper is great way to elevate your voice in the conversation around book bans.
Search online for the name of your local newspaper along with "submit a letter to the editor." You should find guidelines for submitting letters to that specific outlet and an email address or web form you can use to submit your letter.
Our Action Toolkit provides tips for writing your letter as well as suggested talking points to help you customize it. You can also check out these examples of published letters to help inspire you:
WRITE YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS
Public input is very important for school and library board members, trustees, and local and state legislators. For help finding your local officials and tips for crafting your message to them, check out our Action Toolkit.
Our partners at the National Coalition Against Censorship provide sample letters from students and parents addressed to school administrators that you can adapt for your situation or help as you draft your message (available at the bottom of this page).
4. Report Censorship
As part of its longstanding commitment to defend intellectual freedom in libraries, the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) maintains a database of attempted challenges and bans. If a book challenge takes place in your district, ALA may be able to provide support and more customized resources to oppose the attempted challenge or ban.
These reports also help ALA and other organizations stay aware of patterns and trends around efforts to ban reading materials and supply library workers and other professionals with crucial tools, resources, programs, and training to uphold the freedom to read. Reports are confidential unless you give OIF permission to share your story.
5. JOIN THE CAMPAIGN AND STAY CONNECTED
Stay alert with updates, tools, and future actions from the Unite Against Book Bans campaign to help you stay aware of and fight censorship efforts in your community.
Already signed up? Share with a friend or family member and help them sign up.
Every person who joins the campaign is one more voice to speak out when their community is threatened by censorship.
Want to do more? Here are additional actions you can take to defend the right to read in your community and support library workers on the ground.