Later this month, September 23-29, is Banned Books Week. Begun in the 1980s and sponsored by a coalition of groups including the American Library Association, the week highlights books and other materials that have been challenged and banned from America’s libraries. If you visit the listof the top ten books challenged each year, you’ll notice that a large percentage of them were targeted because they include positive portrayals of LGBTQ people. When these books are removed or not included in libraries—particularly public and school libraries—people lose access to useful and affirming information about LGBTQ people. Children, teens and young adults especially need to be able to find these materials. Reading positive accounts about diverse sexual orientations and gender identities can be transformative and life-saving for those who are otherwise isolated from this information.
Much of the opposition to these books comes from religious voices. You can offer a balancing perspective by encouraging libraries and school to include LGBTQ-affirming books on their shelves and taking a stand against censorship. Here are some suggestions for how your community of faith can have an impact:
- Visit the Banned Books Week website and learn more about this issue. Read about which books are being targeted in our country and why.
- Put up posters in your community and distribute stickers in your children’s and youth programs—you can get these and other resources on the Banned Books Week website. They have a whole section of promotional materials
- Change your social media banner and/or link to the website on social media. This is a great way to show that there are people of faith who stand against censorship. Speak out on social media, too, about the targeting of LGBTQ affirming materials. Use the hashtag #BannedBooksWeek.
- Donate books that have been challenged because of their LGBTQ content to libraries that are open to receiving them. Add these books to the shelves of your congregation’s library and make them available to readers in your community. Read them to children in your kid’s programs. Three suggestions (all are on the top ten list of challenged books from 2017 because of their affirming content):
- George, written by Alex Gino, about a transgender child and her plans to let people know who she is
- And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole, about two male penguins who welcome a baby penguin into their family.
- I am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas, which is an autobiographical story by a 13-year-old transgender girl.
- Learn about any challenges to books in your public library and local schools by speaking with librarians and educators. Speak out against censorship and in favor of open access to ideas and books. Share why your faith calls you to expand access to resources, not shut them down.
- Read the books on the Banned Books list! There are some amazingly wonderful books here for children and adults that desire to be read, discussed, and shared.