Banned Books Week is an annual event that celebrates the freedom to read. It draws attention to current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. hosted several events to discuss intellectual freedom in schools. The idea was to raise awareness of the dangers of creating barriers as part of Banned Books Week’s 40th-anniversary theme, “Books United Us, Censorship Divides Us.”
Library patrons like Alexa Smith, a teacher, said having diversity in literary material is important in her diverse classroom.
“I have Hispanic students who need to understand things about Black culture, and I have Black students who need to understand things about Hispanic culture, and then I have my Biracial kids, and I have my White kids,” Smith said. “We’re all just kinda trying to figure it out, and books are one of the best ways to do that, especially in a classroom setting.”
So far in 2022, there have been efforts by schools to ban or restrict a record-breaking almost 2,000 books, many of which focus on people of color and LGBTQ+ voices. For example, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas— ranks number 5 in the top ten most challenged books in 2021 for depictions of drug use and profanity. Critics also say it promotes an anti-police message.
John Clayborn, another MLK library patron, added: “I feel as if it’s another way to marginalize another community that’s already been oppressed.”
Ahead of the midterm elections, which are less than two months away, an American Library Association survey found that a majority of voters from both sides of the political aisle oppose efforts to remove books from libraries.
In Miami, dozens of universities and local library systems are sponsoring events — including taking a selfie with a banned book in Miami Lakes on Sept. 28 and later today, a banned book trivia contest in Miami Beach.