Banned Books Week 2022 – September 18-24, 2022

On August 24, 2022, I participated in the #BannedBooksChat on Twitter which was sponsored by the Banned Books Week Coalition. George M. Johnson, the Banned Books Week Author Honorary Chair and author of All Boys Aren’t Blue, and Cameron Samuels, Banned Books Week Youth Honorary Chair and recent alum from Katy ISD in Texas, participated in the chat. There were many great thoughts, ideas, and resources shared during the chat. Below are just a few of the tweets from the chat.


From @OIF: “A4: Censorship thrives in darkness. Shine a light on it!  Get the word out in your community, attend board meetings, and report censorship: https://www.ala.org/tools/challengesupport/report #BannedBooksChat”

From @AASLpresident: “A1: As a school librarian, I want to teach students to think critically, to value diverse viewpoints, to develop empathy for others; when you limit materials, you are eliminating valuable perspectives & taking away the opportunity to learn from those. #BannedBooksChat”



A few themes represented in the Twitter chat included the importance of all students being valued and represented in our school library collections and the need for young people to understand their rights and realize that there are many allies to support them.

Resources to help school librarians bring attention to banned books and celebrate the Freedom to Read can be found at the website: https://bannedbooksweek.org/ and specifically at the page: https://bannedbooksweek.org/resources/. Some highlights of these resources include:
The Banned Books Week Handbook
Banned Books Week Trivia Program Kit
ALA Free Downloads for Banned Books Week

The theme for Banned Books Week 2022, September 18-24, is “Books Unite Us: Censorship Divides Us.” In my own school library, I’d like to highlight the positives during this Banned Books Week. Instead of celebrating “Banned Books”; I would like to celebrate the “Freedom to Read” and highlight the first statement of that Banned Books Week theme: “Book Unite Us.” While I still want to teach my middle school students the terminology: ie. what is a challenge, what is a ban, and what are their first amendment rights; I also want to emphasize that they have choices in their reading materials.  In addition, I’d like to highlight books that have made a positive impact on their lives. This (highlighting books that made a positive impact in people’s lives), I believe, is how the #FReadom Fighters started their Twitter campaign and I thank them for this emphasis and their work.

In addition, I am also taking to heart this School Library Connection article by Jennifer LaGarde: http://schoollibraryconnection.com/Content/Article/2284998. Jennifer suggests that we (librarians) need to shift our focus of banned books week to “one that focuses less on books and more on the mis-, dis-, and mal- information that fuel today’s growing censorship efforts.” Jennifer shares her ideas to teach students: 1) about emotional triggers, 2) about how to debate controversial topics in productive ways, and 3) about mis-, dis-, and mal-information and “how each has been used to fuel efforts to reduce or eliminate access to books and resources.” I feel like I need to double down on my efforts to teach these three concepts and to teach information literacy skills all year long.

With new restrictive laws and extreme pressure that many school librarians are experiencing around the country, they may not be able to put up a typical “Banned Books” display; however, I hope that we can all celebrate the freedom to read by highlighting books that have been impactful in students’ lives and, also, by teaching our students media literacy skills to help recognize and reject false information.

Finally, although it is important to always be developing allies in the fight for intellectual freedom; we can add this to our focus during Banned Books Week by sharing the resources found at uniteagainstbookbans.org including the Action Toolkit (https://uniteagainstbookbans.org/toolkit/) with supportive friends, colleagues, parents, and community members. We need to encourage these allies to speak up at board meetings, contact decision-makers, and vote for candidates who support the right to read. {National Voter Registration Day (September 20th) occurs during Banned Books Week this year; you can register your school library to participate at: bit.ly/ALANVRD22.}

Author: Kathy Lester



Categories: Intellectual Freedom

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