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In the 2021–2022 school year, 1,586 books were banned in schools across the United States and 22% of those books directly addressed issues of race and racism. Books that include LGBTQ+ themes were also prominent among the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2021.
While book banning has increased in recent years, it is a tactic that dates back to at least the 1820s with the banning of the anti-racist book “Appeal” by David Walker.
Book bans erase history and represent the effort to silence those most underrepresented in literature.
Especially concerning today is news such as a Virginia judge’s tentative opinion that books such as “Gender Queer” and “A Court of Mist and Fury” should not only be banned in schools, but should not be sold at all.
We know that diverse stories are essential: they validate the experiences of those who can see themselves in those stories and they encourage empathy and understanding in those who don’t. Reading is a powerful act of resistance and so many are scared of that power.
So, when it feels like our reality has crumbled into a dystopian nightmare, what do we do? We use the power of books, form our own team of heroes, and fight against censorship and for stories that matter!
As Ibram X. Kendi puts it, “To fight off the book bans is to fight for basic human freedoms.”
"To fight off the book bans is to fight for basic human freedoms."
— Ibram X. Kendi
Banned Books Week is an annual event that takes place from September 18th - 24th in 2022. Here are 18 ways you can fight book bans today!
Ideas and Activities on How To Fight Book Bans
Follow organizations such as the National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Library Association, We Need Diverse Books, PEN America, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund to stay up-to-date on everything happening with books and censorship.
Read banned books.
One of the easiest (and most fun!) ways to support a banned book is to read it. Stories have power, and the more people who read a story, and share that story with others, the harder it is to silence that story.
While you’re at it, purchase the banned book from an independent bookstore and show the authors of banned books that we will continue to support them no matter what!
Check out Fandom Forward’s suggested list on Bookshop, a website that supports local, independent bookstores with every online purchase.
You can also start by picking up a few of our favorites — via our sponsor, Kobo:
- An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States — Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
- The Hate U Give — Angie Thomas
- Looking for Alaska — John Green
- All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto — George M. Johnson
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings — Maya Angelou
- The Color Purple — Alice Walker
- The Bluest Eye — Toni Morrison
- Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot — Mikki Kendall
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian — Sherman Alexie
- Last Night at the Telegraph Club — Malinda Lo
Don’t JUST purchase books.
While it’s great to support the authors of banned books by buying yourself a copy, that doesn't really help those most affected by book bans: the students who are being blocked from reading these stories. We can take our activism one, two, or even multiple steps further by reading the rest of this list and taking action that will directly improve student access to banned books!
Report banned books.
According to the American Library Association, as many as 82-97% of challenges (attempts to ban books) remain unreported. If you find out that a library, school, or institution is attempting to ban a book in your community, make sure it doesn’t happen in the darkness.
The American Library Association has an excellent resource for reporting censorship of books. Visit their website to fill out the information about a book that was banned to raise awareness.
Speak out publicly.
Post on social media about a banned book and advocate for why it shouldn’t be banned: Whether it’s a photo from your camera roll, a poem you were inspired to write, or a piece of art you created, visibility is such an important part of defending banned books. Show (and tell) us why your favorite banned book shouldn’t be banned!
Use and explore the hashtags #DefendBooks and #BannedBooks to connect with others and help these posts reach more people
Your efforts will help ensure these silent and reported challenges become public challenges, and are eventually overturned.
Support student activists via email.
Fandom Forward has partnered with student activists at Texas’s Vandegrift High School. They have formed a banned book club, and they need our support! Write an email to the school’s Governance Team (email@example.com) and ask them to include student representation on their reconsideration committee.
Here’s a sample email you can rephrase and send:
Dear Leander School District Governance Team,
I’m a book lover and concerned citizen. I’m reaching out to ask you to include student representation from Vandegrift High School on your reconsideration committee. This is important because, first and foremost, these book bans impact students and they deserve a say in the policies that affect their education.
Representation in stories matters, and high school is such a crucial time in terms of figuring out one’s identity and learning to love and accept yourself. By blocking access to these books, we are not protecting children, we are harming them.
The students of Vandegrift High School are smart, capable, and informed about these books, and they want to be involved in the conversation around book censorship, so we should allow them a seat at the table.
Thank you for reading this email and I look forward to seeing student representation on the reconsideration committee soon.
Find a school that needs support in your own community.
Do some quick research and find a school in your area that is suffering from book bans and send an email similar to the one above to the decision-makers at that school district.
Similar to the email template above, the best thing you can do is ask them to listen to what students have to say about the book bans. Being a good activist and ally includes listening to those most impacted by a specific issue — so encourage the decision-makers at these schools to do the same.
Also, research if there are local organizers in your community already doing work against book bans! If there are, reach out to them first to make sure you provide your help in the most effective way possible. Local organizers already working on an issue are the best possible resource because they are experts in the best ways to move forward.
Attend a Fandom Forward training.
Take part in a training on how to take action against book bans, so you’re prepared when the new school year starts! Participate in trainings about how to effectively fight against book bans in your community, learn directly from student activists, and celebrate incredible authors with Fandom Forward during their Book Defenders campaign. Explore their schedule of events and find some events to attend.
Donate to the Book Defenders campaign.
Book Defenders, a campaign by Fandom Forward, is training hundreds of new activists on how to effectively fight book bans in their own communities.
One of Fandom Forward’s core principles is to make activism more accessible for everyone, so they provide this training for free.
If you want to be a part of the community supporting Fandom Forward’s work in training people all over the world to fight against censorship, donate today!
Donate books to a community in need.
Lots of places in your community should be open to book donations like libraries, shelters, schools, or other nonprofits dedicated to literacy and education.
Where you donate books is up to you, but it’s important that you first confirm if the organization is able to accept the donations. Some organizations might also have specific requirements for donations or might be looking for books for certain age groups. Always make sure to ask what they’re looking for.
When it’s appropriate – and when the organization tells you it’s okay – donate banned books to increase accessibility to the book!
If you donate books, make sure to report your action to the Book Defenders campaign!
Host a banned books party.
Historically, hosting an event – whether it be a huge charity concert or a small house party – has been a popular way for someone to advocate for causes they care about, and get other people involved too!
Host a house party, picnic, Zoom call, or another type of party themed around banned books to get others interested in the cause. (It’s easier than you think!) Fandom Forward created a toolkit to get you started!
Join a banned book club.
Reading and discussing books with others give those stories power. In response to recent bans, book clubs solely focused on reading banned books are popping up all over the place. Join one in your local community, or join a national club like Banned Books Book Club!
Create your own banned book club.
Are you inspired by the students all over the country who are forming their own banned book clubs? Consider starting your own Fandom Forward chapter and specifically make your chapter a banned books club. Check out Fandom Forward’s site for how to get started!
Volunteer your time.
Volunteer at your local library. (Libraries are important and amazing!) As a library volunteer, you can encourage supervisors and peers to support banned books and make sure they are available for members of your community. Even better, join the board of your local library so you have a seat at the table when decisions around censorship are being made!
Attend PTA meetings.
After you’ve found a school or library that needs support in your community, and sent an email to decision makers expressing that you do not support book bans, the next best thing you can do is show up in person. Whether it’s a PTA meeting, a school board meeting, or some other type of public meeting, find out who makes the decision to ban books and make your voice heard.
As the National Coalition Against Censorship says, “Expressing your views on the book and why students should be allowed to read it would help to balance the objecting parents’ perspectives, making it more likely for school officials to take an objective decision, rather than pressured one.”
Contact the press.
The media is hugely important in spreading the news of book banning, and also influencing public opinion on the topic. If you know of book censorship happening in your community, contact the local press and ask them to write about it!
All reputable media outlets will have a contact page, tip line, or editors’ email addresses easily accessible.
(As mentioned above, a majority of book challenges never make it to the public’s attention. You can help change that.)
Another effective method is writing a letter to the editor explaining why this is such an important issue.
Write a supportive letter to an author of banned books.
Learning that a book you’ve written, a story that you’ve poured your whole self into, has been banned can’t be a good feeling. Take some time to write some supportive letters to the authors who are being targeted by these book bans and be sure to share with them what their book meant to you. Let them know that not everyone wants to censor their words.
The American Library Association has created a helpful guide full of resources on how to get involved.
Run for school board.
This is certainly the most daunting action on this list, but we think you’re up for the challenge! Arguably, the most direct way that you can stop book bans is to become part of those making the decisions. Get connected with Run For Something to get started — an organization that recruits and supports young progressives running for offices at all levels of government.
Good Good Good hosted the founder of Run For Something on the Sounds Good Podcast and she laid out all the reasons you should run for office. Most important: If you care, you’re qualified.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is Banned Books Week?
Banned Books Week typically takes place at the beginning of the American school year during the last full week of September. In 2022, Banned Books Week is September 18th - 24th.
When was Banned Books Week started?
Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 thanks to the advocacy of Judith Krug.
What is the Banned Books Week theme for 2022?
According to Banned Books Week, this year's theme is “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.”
Who is the Honorary Chair for Banned Books Week 2022?
George M. Johnson, the award-winning author of All Boys Aren't Blue, was named Honorary Chair of Banned Books Week 2022.
When is National Reading Month?
National Reading Month is in October every year. You can read our guide on how to celebrate National Reading Month.