‘It’s Time’: Make Your Voice Heard During Banned Books Week

Sunday, October 1, 2023
Colorful image with words Banned Books Week and dates, October 1-7, 2023

Banned Books Week
arrives this year with a request, here in Kansas City and nationwide:  

Don’t stay silent. 

Running through Saturday, October 7, Banned Books Week annually celebrates our freedom to read, our long-held right to seek and express ideas. Yet challenges to books in libraries and schools continue to mount. Organized factions are targeting titles they deem objectionable, the subject matter often involving racial and sexual (particularly LGBTQ) identity. States are backing them with legislation – and in Missouri, a 4-month-old administrative rule enacted by the secretary of state.  
cover of zine about book bans

Download a short printable zine about book banning created by a teen library patron.

In the first eight months of this year, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom reported 695 attempts to censor library materials and challenges to 1,915 different titles. The latter is a 20% increase over the same period in 2022, which finished with a record high. 

But as the Kansas City Public Library’s Crystal Faris notes, “What the data is showing is that it’s a small number of people who are objecting to a large number of materials.” 

Indeed, a succession of polls and surveys over the past year and a half indicates that a heavy majority of voters, including parents, object to book bans and censorship in public libraries and schools – 71% in an American Library Association poll of 1,000 voters and 472 parents of children in public schools. The nonprofit Tennessee Democracy Forum found 68% of 1,125 registered voters in that state opposed or strongly opposed to bans

In a nationwide American Family Survey by the Deseret News and Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, just 12% of 3,000 respondents agreed that books should be removed from libraries if a parent objects. 

While registering their opinions in polls, these defenders of reading rights tend to be less publicly vocal. Which, if you too are a defender, brings us to your voice. 

“At this point, it’s time. Those of us who are in the majority, who believe libraries should have materials for a wide and diverse range of people, need to speak up,” says Faris, the Library’s deputy director for youth and family engagement. “There needs to be a voice that’s as strong – that’s stronger – than the voice for banning books, a stronger voice calling for inclusion of materials.  

“It has always been time for librarians; it’s our profession," she says. "It has always been time for journalists because it’s about the First Amendment. And for booksellers; it’s their living. But now it’s time for people who care about their community, and want to see their community thrive, to make themselves heard.” 

Chart showing steep rise in number of book challenges.
The theme for this year’s Banned Books Week is Let Freedom Read. It culminates in Let Freedom Read Day on Saturday, when readers of all ages and interests are asked to help defend books from censorship and stand up for the library staff, educators, writers, publishers, and booksellers who make them available. Make the majority heard.  

Here are some ways: