This blog post is from Chris Finan, Executive Director, National Coalition Against Censorship – a Unite Against Book Bans partner.
Let’s talk about good news for a change.
For almost two years, there has been nothing but bad news about book banning. The number of book challenges doubled in 2021 and then almost doubled again in 2022, breaking the record both times. Dozens of states have passed censorship laws. Librarians have been targeted for incredible abuse. Teachers in many places are afraid to teach.
But there have also been many moments that restore your faith in humanity. Kids have gotten up before hostile audiences to tell school boards why challenged titles are so important to them. Community members have organized local groups to push back against censorship. Parents have joined lawsuits that have won victories in court. The ALA has launched Unite Against Book Bans to bring people together in the fight for the freedom to read.
At the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), we have heard many heartwarming stories. Here is an example:
We were contacted by parents in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They wanted to expose a school superintendent who was secretly removing books from school libraries. How did they know he was doing this? One of his supporters had tape-recorded him admitting that he had ordered books banned–and posted the recording on Facebook!
We were amazed to discover that the recording was still available on Facebook. We wrote to the school board to demand an investigation. But the superintendent denied he was guilty of censorship. He claimed that he had only removed old books that were no longer in use.
We wrote to the school board again with a list of the titles that were removed. Every one was a book that is frequently challenged around the country, including The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel by Margaret Atwood, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf, Nineteen Minutes: A Novel by Jodi Picoult, It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris, Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher, and Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab.
When a local FOX station began to report on the controversy and started its own investigation, the superintendent finally admitted his guilt. He issued a public apology to staff, students, and parents. At least some of the books were returned to the shelves. The school board also promised to strengthen its policy for handling book challenges.
Shortly after his apology, the superintendent announced his retirement.
The successful fights against censorship make it clear that victory is possible whenever people work together. Please join Unite Against Book Bans and spread the word. If we are going to preserve the freedom to read, we have to fight for it.
Featured Image credit: Macey Morales / National Coalition Against Censorship