Libraries and librarians aren’t alone in their fight against the rise in book challenges. More than 600 groups and individuals representing writers, educators, artists, racial and social justice advocates, booksellers, and publishers just signed a December 8 statement against efforts to ban books in schools and libraries.
The nonprofit and nonpartisan National Coalition Against Censorship created the statement to support reading and access to diverse stories and against efforts to remove LGBTQ-inclusive books as well as books about race and racism from schools and libraries across the United States. Statement signatories include the American Library Association, GLAAD, the American Civil Liberties Union, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, Abrams, Simon & Schuster, Scholastic Inc., and authors Judy Blume, George M. Johnson, Malinda Lo, and many more.
The statement reads:
In communities across the country, an organized political attack on books in schools threatens the education of America’s children. These ongoing attempts to purge schools of books represent a partisan political battle fought in school board meetings and state legislatures. The undersigned organizations and individuals are deeply concerned about this sudden rise in censorship and its impact on education, the rights of students, and freedom of expression.
Nearly all communities have developed policies for both handling book challenges and allowing parents to influence their own child’s reading, but they must do so within the guideposts set forth by the Supreme Court, without infringing on the rights of other students. The law clearly prohibits the kind of activities we are seeing today: censoring school libraries, removing books–and entire reading lists–based on disagreement with viewpoint and without any review of their educational or literary merit. Some would-be censors have gone even farther, threatening teachers, school librarians, authors, and school board members with criminal charges and even violence for allowing students access to books.
Libraries offer students the opportunity to encounter books and other material that they might otherwise never see and the freedom to make their own choices about what to read. Denying young people this freedom to explore–often on the basis of a single controversial passage cited out of context–will limit not only what they can learn but who they can become.
Books help students connect with characters whose stories reflect their own lives. They also widen their view of a changing world that embraces diversity and multiculturalism. But there is always resistance to change. So it is not surprising that most of the books that are being attacked address concerns of groups previously underrepresented in libraries and school curriculums: books about lived experiences of racism or of growing up LGBTQIA and experiencing bias, discrimination, hate and even violence.
The First Amendment guarantees that no individual, group of individuals, legislator, community member, or even school board member can dictate what public school students are allowed to read based on their own personal beliefs or political viewpoint.
It is freedom of expression that ensures that we can meet the challenges of a changing world. That freedom is critical for the students who will lead America in the years ahead. We must fight to defend it.
If you have young kids at home, chances are they love Blippi. The YouTube sensation has entertained millions of preschoolers for years with his viral videos and catchy songs. And if you don’t know who Blippi is … well, he gets more than a billion views a month on YouTube. So, needless to say, he’s got the preschool demographic all locked up.
Now Blippi is starring in an Amazon Kids+ live-action original series called Blippi’s Treehouse. Featuring Blippi and his co-host Meekah, the show invites viewers ages 3-6 into the magical treehouse to sing, play, dance, and learn about the world around them.
Blippi and Meekah’s friend Patch even runs a branch library (get it? Because they are in a tree?)! So naturally, they love reading and want to encourage all the pre-readers out there to visit their local libraries.
In this video, Blippi has a special message for preschoolers and parents alike: The best place to learn, go on adventures, and have fun is your library. Check it out!
If you are looking for more resources on early literacy and the importance of introducing pre-readers to the library, check out the Every Child Ready to Read initiative.
Librarians and literacy advocates: The Blippi and Meekah video is available for download on the ALA website.
Jason Reynolds, YA author and the Library of Congress’s National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, visited The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on December 2 to discuss his new book, Stuntboy, in the Meantime, as well as the detrimental effects of banning books in libraries and schools across the US.
When asked by Colbert about his books being on the American Library Association’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books List, Reynolds stressed the importance of access to books for young readers.
“For those of us on that list, it’s not a badge of honor,” Reynolds told Colbert. “People always say, ‘Congratulations. You’re doing something right.’ It’s like, yeah, but at the same time, there’s been access cut for all the young people who might need these books and where they might only get them in schools. You can’t take for granted that there might not be a library or bookstore in everybody’s community or that there may not be a $20 bill to go buy that book that they no longer have access to because of these bannings.”
School and public libraries across the U.S. are currently experiencing an unprecedented increase in book censorship attempts. And many of the books being challenged and removed focus on LGBTQIA+ issues; document the Black and BIPOC experience; or are written by Black authors.
As Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom told NBC News on November 12, “I've worked at ALA for two decades now, and I've never seen this volume of challenges come in. The impact will fall to those students who desperately want and need books that reflect their lives, that answer questions about their identity, about their experiences that they always desperately need and often feel that they can't talk to adults about."
Are you frustrated by these attempts to censor books? Here are three steps you can take now to stand with libraries and protect the freedom to read.
1. Follow news and social media in your community and state to keep apprised of organizations working to censor library or school materials.
2. Show up for library colleagues at school or library board meetings and speak as a library advocate and community stakeholder who supports a parent's right to restrict reading materials for their own child but not for all readers.
ALA offers resources to assist library workers and library advocates in responding to and supporting others facing such challenges. If you’re experiencing a book challenge, please report it to ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and let them know if you need assistance.
And since it's Giving Tuesday, please consider a donation to the American Library Association. ALA actively advocates and educates in defense of intellectual freedom—the rights of library users like you to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Banned Books Week, (September 26 – October 2) isan annual event celebrating the freedom to read! Libraries and schools create incredible displays, programs, and materials to raise awareness about the right to read.
With your support, we can continue to draw attention to censorship attempts and highlight the benefits of unrestricted reading.
Below are four actions that you can take to support Banned Books Week!
#1 Share on social media
This year’s theme is “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.” Check out the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom’s infographics, GIFs, and cover photos to raise awareness during the week!
Example social media post:
Sharing stories important to us means sharing a part of ourselves. This #BannedBooksWeek, we're drawing attention to the power of stories and the divisiveness of censorship. Learn more at ala.org/bbooks. #BooksUniteUs
#2 Share events and resources
Use the sample social media post above or create your own message to share! Check out these additional resources for ideas:
Dear Banned Author is a letter-writing program that encourages readers to write (or tweet!) to their favorite banned authors. Shareable postcards, Twitter handles, and author addresses can be found on the ALA website. Make sure to use the hashtags #BannedBooksWeek and #DearBannedAuthor.
Follow the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom on Facebook and Twitter as they promote events and continue to highlight the incredible work of libraries throughout the week!
We are so excited that Marley Dias, the witty and purpose-driven 16-year-old founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks and author of Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You!, is promoting the value of library cards this month. She’s such an impressive young person, and she is a passionate advocate for diverse books and lifelong reading. In other words, we are totally fangirling over here. Here are six things you should know about the American Library Associations Library Card Sign-Up Month’s Honorary Chair:
1. She launched #1000BlackGirlBooks when she was just 10 years old.
As a student, Marley noticed that the books she was assigned to read didn’t feature many protagonists that looked like her. As she told American Libraries magazine, “So I told my mom, and she said, ‘Well, what are you going to do about it?’ So that’s really how [#1000BlackGirlBooks] started. I wanted to collect 1,000 books where black girls are the main characters and donate them to the high school in St. Mary, Jamaica, that my mother attended, so I would be able to give back to her community.” Her campaign succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. Marley has collected over 13,000 books to date.
Marley is many things, and in 2018 she added “author” to her list of accomplishments. Well-known for her activism and commitments to social justice, volunteerism, and equity and inclusion, Marley wrote her book to show kids how they make positive changes in their communities and to encourage kids to become lifelong readers. Use your library card to check it out today!
3. She’s so committed to diverse books, she made a Netflix special about it.
Ever want to go to a storytime where Tiffany Hadish, Karamo Brown, Common, Lupita Nyong'o, and Misty Copeland read their favorite books to you? Well Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices on Netflix is for you! Hosted by Marley, the series features famous faces sharing children's books by Black authors to spark kid-friendly conversations about empathy, equality, self-love, and antiracism.
4. She says “The most important and valuable resource in your library is a librarian.”
And we agree! In an interview with an Orlando news station, she said, “They are the kindest and most supportive people … If you want to go on the computer and play games, if you want to look up something about your town’s history, or just borrow a book, they will support and help you along the way.” She also introduced us to her own local librarian Jane in a video she posted from West Orange Public Library in New Jersey!
5. She has her own READ® poster
Joining the ranks of Oprah, David Bowie, Miss Piggy, and, most recently, Baby Yoda, Marley unlocked next-level library cred when she became the star of her very own READ® poster. ALA's READ® campaign, supported by ALA Graphics, celebrates the joy of reading and the importance of lifelong learning. For more than 30 years, the iconic READ® posters have featured celebrities, musicians, award-winning authors and illustrators, and library advocates who’ve lent their star power to support our nation’s libraries. Not too bad for someone who just got her driver’s license!
6. You can join her in promoting the power of a library card on social media this September
Send her a picture of you with your library card! Make sure tag @iammarleydias on Instagram. She’ll be sharing your photos throughout the month!
It’s back-to-school season, and if your students are coming home with books in their backpacks that channel their interests and enthusiasm into learning and literacy, there’s likely a school librarian to thank. There’s no better time to stop and celebrate school libraries and librarians. Here are just five reasons they’re the heroes we need now more than ever.
Information literate students are better prepared for college, career, and life
Post-secondary institutions, employers, and civic life demand the ability to find, evaluate, use, and create information in multiple formats. School librarians prepare students for their next life stages by teaching information, digital, and media literacies, as well as digital citizenship.
Students value the school library as a safe space
Students who feel safe and well-supported are more engaged in school and perform better academically. School librarians provide judgment-free learning spaces, curate resources that nurture student health and well-being, and promote reading for pleasure.
New technology introduced by school librarians elevate student learning and enhance teaching methods
When librarians vet and introduce new educational technologies, students learn to safely and constructively navigate tools and resources that deepen inquiry, collaboration, and creation. In turn, teachers can enhance classroom teaching with resources provided by the school librarian
Students find resources appropriate to their needs in a school library
School librarians curate diverse collections that provide mirrors, windows, and doors so that all students better understand themselves and the world around them. In so doing, school librarians empower students to embrace curiosity and learn independently.
Students achieve more in schools with libraries and librarians
Students with professionally staffed school libraries have higher reading, writing, and information literacy scores, as well as higher graduation rates. Studies show that Title I students and English language learners recognize even greater academic gains with a certified school librarian.
Schools with a strong school library program and a certified school librarian ensure their students have the best chance to succeed. If your children’s school doesn’t have a school library or school librarian—or the school library budget has been slashed—become an advocate!
For more than a century Booklist has published thousands of reviews each year to help library and education workers decide what to buy for their shelves and what to recommend to patrons and students.
Now you can access the same great reviews that librarians read in the Booklist Reader, a new digital library patron-facing magazine featuring dozens of reviews and recommendations for readers of all ages.
Each month, Booklist Reader showcases top 10 lists, must reads, interviews with (and articles by) top authors and illustrators, and adult, youth, and audio recommendations for everyone who loves to read.
In addition to great recommendations, Booklist Reader seeks to highlight authors and books that library patrons may not otherwise discover and to encourage all to explore these offerings in their local libraries.
September is Library Card Sign-up Month (LCSUM)—an annual reminder that library cards empower individuals and communities by providing access to technology, multimedia content, and educational programming.
If you love libraries — and the access they provide to rich and diverse worlds — we invite you to join the festivities and help spread the word about the value of a library card. Here are a few ways you can participate:
Use Your Powers of Persuasion to Encourage Others to Get Library Cards
You have a library card, of course. But does your best friend? Neighbor? Cousin? Secret crush? There’s no time like to present to persuade those people in your life to register for a library card. Remind them that signing up for a library card is free and easy, and that libraries are still better than the internet.
Spread the Message on Social Media
Libraries and their supporters are using the hashtag #LibraryCardSignUpMonth and #LibrariesEmpower on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to help get the word out about the value of a library card. The Library Card Sign-up Month website has tons of sample social media posts and amazing graphics featuring LCSUM Honorary Chair Marley Dias for free download.
Tell Us How Your Library Card Empowers You
The American Library Association is encouraging everyone to help spread some library love by posting to social media about how the library empowers you and your communities. Here's how it works: Post to Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #LibrariesEmpower. Entries can also be submitted by posting as a comment or wall post on the I Love Libraries Facebook page. Don't forget to tag your library! The creator of one randomly-selected post will receive a $100 Visa gift and an ALA Graphics The Child Poster. Additionally, three second-place winners will receive an ALA Graphics The Child Poster. Official rules are available on the Library Card Sign-up Month page.
Show Off a Library-Themed Yard Sign
Let your neighbors know you’re a proud library card holder with these awesome yard signs from the American Library Association. Pick your favorite sign—options include “library card holders live here” and “in this house, we support libraries”—or design your own, then print and display to jazz up your yard.
Follow the Creators Get Carded series on Social Media
Comic creators are getting into the act this month to help spread the word about the importance of having a library card. Each day in September, at least one new creator will pose on social media with their library card. Search the hashtag #CreatorsGetCarded and follow @libcomix on Twitter and Instagram to see your comics creators like A.C. Esguerra (Eighty Days), George O'Connor (Olympians), Jennifer L. Holm (Turtle in Paradise), BonHyung Jeong (Kyle’s Little Sister), Robin Ha (Almost American Girl), David A. Robertson (Breakdown: The Reckoner Rises), MK Czerwiec (Taking Turns: Stories from HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371), Varian Johnson (Twins), and many more.
What do a youth services coordinator from Anchorage Public Library, a librarian for history, Latin American studies, and romance languages at SUNY Albany, and a library media specialist from Dallas, Texas, have in common?
They are three winners of the I Love My Librarian Award, which recognizes librarians working in public, school, college, community college, or university libraries for their outstanding public service contributions.
Since the award's inception in 2008, library users nationwide have submitted more than 21,000 nominations detailing how librarians transformed their communities, including efforts to improve inclusivity, digital access, and literacy. TO date, 130 librarians have received this distinguished honor. And now the American Library Association (ALA) is looking to add another 10 to the list.
Nominations for the I Love My Librarian Award open June 23 and are accepted online through September 27, 2021.
ALA member leaders will select ten librarians from thousands of nominations, and each will receive $5,000 in recognition of their outstanding public service. The association will honor award recipients at the I Love My Librarian Award ceremony on January 22, 2022 at ALA's new event, LibLearnX: The Library Learning Experience. Winners also will receive complimentary LibLearnX registration as part of their award package.
Know an incredible librarian who deserves to be recognized? Get inspired by reading about past winners, including winning submissions from their patrons. Then nominate your favorite librarian. More information is available online, as are promotional resources for your library to spread the word.