Action Toolkit

A small but vocal group is driving the current flood of book bans in school and public libraries across the country. It's important to counter those voices by standing united in support of the freedom to read in your local community.

How can you stand up and unite against book bans? We've put together this action toolkit to help you get started.

Are you part of an organization? Download the full toolkit (PDF) for additional resources to amplify and support the Unite Against Book Bans campaign.

How to Talk About Book Bans

Below are a set of talking points which should be customized to reflect your own voice. These can be tailored to talk about a specific book that is being challenged or used more generally to oppose book bans. The points can be used for writing a letter to your local school or library board, your state legislators and governor, or as the basis of your public comments given to any elected bodies. They can also be used to help you draft a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or in speaking with members of the media. All of these actions are important ways you can help have an impact on the issue of book bans.

Reading is a foundational skill, critical to future learning and to exercising our democratic freedoms.

We can trust individuals to make their own decisions about what they read and believe.

Parents have the right to guide their children's reading, but parents should not be making decisions for other parents' children. Specifically, a small group of parents should not dictate what books other people's children are allowed to read.

Books are tools for understanding complex issues. Limiting young people's access to books does not protect them from life's complex and challenging issues.

Young people deserve to see themselves reflected in a library's books.

Removing and banning books from public libraries is a slippery slope to government censorship and the erosion of our country's commitment to freedom of expression.

Please reject any efforts to ban books and allow individuals and parents to make the decision about what they can read and believe.

Visit UniteAgainstBookBans.org to learn more and to join our efforts.

Contact Elected Officials

Public input is very important for school and library board members, trustees, and state legislators. In almost all localities, these are elected positions and many local elected officials serve in either 2- or 4-year terms. These elected officials, therefore, take the views of residents and voters seriously, and seek to represent the voices of their community.

Find Your Local Officials

To identify who sits on your local school or library board, search online for your municipality’s or county’s name and “school board” or “library board.” From there, most websites will include the email address and/or other contact information for each of the board members, as well as a general email account for the board. You may alternatively seek to call your local library or school to ask for the contact information of these officials. We recommend that you include all of the members of the board in the email or letter that you submit.

Find your state representatives and senators

Many state legislatures also provide an online search tool to identify who your state senator(s) and state representative(s)/delegate(s) are based on your address. Try searching congress.gov to find your state officials.

Use the talking points provided above to customize your message to these elected officials. Your letter or comments will be strongest if you are succinct, while also demonstrating your concern over book banning efforts and your connection to this issue (i.e. as a parent, as a student, as an educator, as a local business owner, as an engaged community member, as a librarian, as a reader, etc.). 

You may also choose to attend your next school board or library board meeting to speak against book bans. Most websites of these local boards will include the agendas of  upcoming meetings where public comment is allowed. Note that public comments during these meetings are usually limited to 2-3 minutes per speaker, so keep your remarks brief and to the point. Please remember to be respectful and refrain from making ad hominem or personal attacks against anyone who disagrees with you.

Contact Media

Writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper is another way to have an impact on the conversation around book bans. Search online for the name of your local newspaper along with “submit a letter to the editor.” Those instructions should provide you with an email address, mailing address, or a web form where you can submit your letter.

Note that most newspapers will limit the length of letters they choose to publish. Typically those limits are approximately 200-300 words. When you submit your letter, be sure to include your full name, town where you reside, email address, telephone number, and any other required information from the publication.

Share Your Progress!

Once you’ve taken these steps, share your work with others! Be sure to tag #UniteAgainstBookBans on social media or email UniteAgainstBookBans@ala.org to let us know what actions you have taken!

Connect with Others & Spread the Word

This can be a difficult issue to work on alone, so consider all of your networks and connections in your community to unite with: family, friends, organizations you're involved, etc. Research shows that opposition to book bans is widespread and you will likely find support within your community to unite against such efforts.

The talking points above can be used to have one-on-one or group conversations with organizations you belong to – parent organizations, civic groups, faith communities, book clubs, non-profits, sports leagues, and more. If you represent an organization, contact other organizations that might work in coalition with you.

Encourage fellow supporters to sign up with the Unite Against Book Bans campaign and to take the steps outlined in this toolkit.

Petition Decision Makers

If a book challenge or attempted ban occurs in your community, one way to demonstrate widespread opposition to removal of that book is to petition the person or group that is responsible for deciding whether the book will stay on the shelves. This can be a school administrator or board, a library board, a town council, etc.

It's important to note that petitions alone are generally not enough to change the minds of decision makers. When combined with other activities, however, they can be powerful in demonstrating wide support for (or opposition to) a particular issue and growing your base of advocates.

Create, Circulate, and Successfully Deliver a Petition:

Create

  • Identify the decision maker(s) and address the petition to that/ those person(s).

  • Keep your statement short, factual, and end with a specific request for action, e.g., We urge you to keep [title of book] in the library’s collection.

  • If filing a paper petition, include your statement at the top of each page. Clearly state your concern and what you would like decision makers to do.

  • Make sure that there is adequate space to sign.

  • Include fields of information to show that the signer is a constituent of the petition recipient(s). This can be a zip code, address, town, school district, etc.

  • Allow for 10 signature lines per page; this will make it easier to tally the number of collected signatures.

Circulate

  • Focus on collecting signatures from the constituents of the targeted decision makers. It can be harmful to your cause if the majority of voices are from a different community.

  • Plan your signature gathering and ask others to assist in collecting signatures.

  • For paper petitions, set up in high traffic areas, e.g., near grocery stores, public transportation stops, or in front of public buildings. Use signage to identify your cause. Consider hosting multiple events at different times of day.

  • For online petitions, use email and social media to reach large numbers of supporters.

  • A large number of signatures is necessary for impact. Set a goal based on the size of the constituency.

Deliver

  • Consider timing. Deliver the petition before a decision is made. Set an internal deadline of at least 3-5 days prior to the anticipated decision to allow for any logistical delays and for your delivery of the petitions to have the strongest impact.

  • There are many online tools that can make creating a petition easy, e.g., Change.org. Keep in mind, however, that it is most effective to deliver a petition to the decision makers in person, at a public event, with physical copies of your petition.

  • Let the local press know that you will be presenting a petition. Have a copy of your statement ready to share with them. Notify the press the day before you plan to deliver the petitions and again on the morning of your delivery.

  • Bring a group of supporters to join you. Identify your spokesperson and make a statement as you present the petition. Make a copy of the original document before presenting it.

Social Media Tools

Spread the word to your friends and followers with our shareable graphics and posts. Download sets include graphics sized for Facebook/Twitter, Instagram, and Instagram Stories. Don't forget the hashtag!

#UniteAgainstBookBans

Sample post

Join us: UniteAgainstBookBans.org. Follow: @UniteAgainstBookBans. #UniteAgainstBookBans

Sample post

Sign up at UniteAgainstBookBans.org. #UniteAgainstBookBans @UniteAgainstBookBans

Sample post

Sign up at UniteAgainstBookBans.org. #UniteAgainstBookBans @UniteAgainstBookBans

Sample post

Sign up at UniteAgainstBookBans.org. #UniteAgainstBookBans @UniteAgainstBookBans

Sample post

Librarians respect each person's right to read what they want, but not to dictate what other people's children read. Join us: UniteAgainstBookBans.org @UniteAgainstBookBans #UniteAgainstBookBans

Sample post

Librarians respect each person's right to read what they want, but not to dictate what other people's children read. Join us: UniteAgainstBookBans.org @UniteAgainstBookBans #UniteAgainstBookBans

Is your library experiencing attempts to ban books or other resources? Report censorship to ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom and help defend the freedom to read at your library. Challenge reports are confidential and help us stay aware of current attempts to censor library materials.

For more tools and tips to help you or your organization fight book bans in your community, download the full UABB toolkit.

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