Take Action & Defend Books: Suggestions from Experts!
By Heather Ford
This summer, Fandom Forward updated our annual “Accio Books” campaign to reflect the changing world around us and directly address the worrying increase in book bans throughout the United States.
During Book Defenders, we’re still donating tons of books to communities in need, but we’re also learning how to fight book bans and how to keep writing banned books — that is, keep writing stories that reveal the interesting, complicated, sometimes messy truth about the world as we see it.
We were so honored to talk with three people who are experts in defending books: Christine Emeran from the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), Alaina Lavoie from We Need Diverse Books, and Jonathan Friedman from PEN America. Let’s explore some of the action items they suggested during the panel!
Are you ready to defend books? Let’s go!
- Christine started us off by suggesting that people who are concerned about a local book ban write a letter to a school administrator or a board official. She mentioned that giving a reason why this book’s banning matters to you is helpful. Your city, town, or school district’s website should have the necessary addresses and names of who to contact.
- Next, Christine mentioned that attending a school board meeting in person is important, as those in favor of banning books often have many (very vocal) people at these meetings voicing support of the ban. On this point, Jonathan also encouraged people to find out how books are being removed, knowing this information can help us fight the root cause of the bans. Your city, town, or school district’s website should have board meeting times, and how to get on their agenda. Some states offer hybrid or virtual meetings that you can attend from your home.
- Christine’s final suggestion was to contact the local media when a book ban is announced. Media is hugely important in any activist movement: the more people who know about something being banned, the more people who have the ability to speak out against the ban. Email addresses or contact forms can usually be found through the “Contact Us” page on sites for local blogs, newspapers, or TV stations.
- Alaina echoed Christine’s suggestion about attending school board meetings, and took it one step further: encouraging people to consider joining their local school board. They directed people to a blog post on We Need Diverse Book’s site which outlined how to get started.
- Alaina emphasized that a great (and easy!) way to support diverse authors and commonly banned books is not by buying or donating banned books (read why this is not the best action to take here), but rather to simply request your local library carry said book.
A lot of these actions are great for people who have a direct connection to a given school/school district (i.e. you have a child in school, you are a school librarian, etc.). While anyone can certainly contact the media or request books from the library, certain actions such as writing to a school administrator or speaking at a school board meeting are going to have more weight if you have a connection to the school. Here are some actions that everyone can participate in!
- Katie, our Managing Director, recommended writing an op-ed or letter to the editor to your local news outlet. This action is also a great option if you’re not comfortable with speaking at a school board meeting.
- Christine recommending joining a social media campaign, such as using the hashtag #FREADOM. Other campaigns include #UniteAgainstBookBans and #BooksNotBans. Search those hashtags to find out what exactly people are posting, then join in!
- Finally, Jonathan noted that PEN America is building a network across the country of people that want to organize against book bans and encouraged people to email him at email@example.com if you’re interested in getting involved.
How to support Book Defenders
This panel was a great addition to Fandom Forward’s first Book Defenders summer and if you want even more ideas on how to defend books, downloading the Book Defenders Toolkit is a great place to start! There’s even a sample letter to write to help students in Texas who are fighting for student representation on their school district’s governance committee, the body of people that make decisions concerning book bans.
When you take any action to defend books, don’t forget to submit your points to help your house (based on your favorite book genre) win the Book Defenders Cup! While you’re at it, snag one of our rad “We’ll Keep Reading” shirts, join our book club, or donate directly to Fandom Forward to help us continue defending books all summer.