The censorship of books in the US has reached a crisis level. More than 2,500 different book bans were enacted in schools across 32 US states during the 2021-2022 school year, according to a new report by Pen America. And attempts to ban books from libraries are on track to exceed 2021’s already record-setting figures, the American Library Association said on Friday.
But still, there is cause for hope.
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Across the country, parents, students, teachers, librarians and community groups have successfully fought against attempted bans, defeating well-funded, rightwing attempts to remove books like “I Am Jazz” and “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You” from shelves.
Here’s how they did it – and how you can too.
- Speak out
When people attempt to censor a book, it’s important to speak out and let your community know what’s happening, said Svetlana Mintcheva, director of programs at the National Coalition Against Censorship.
“The more light that is shed on an issue, the less likely it is to succeed,” she said. “Censors operate in the dark. They don’t want attention brought to their efforts.”
- Get organised
Once you know about an attempted book ban, it’s important to get organised and mobilise your community, said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom.
That might mean starting a petition, writing letters to the editor or organising a protest. It’s also important to reach out to local organisations that can help, like the ALA or NCAC.
- Educate yourself – and others
It’s crucial to educate yourself about why a book is being banned, and what the consequences of censorship would be, Mintcheva said. That way, you can be prepared to counter false claims with facts.
It’s also important to remember that censors often try to silence marginalised voices.
In your opinion, what are the most important points to make when fighting a book ban?
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