Coral Gables Congregational Church hosts the Sanctuary for Banned Books

On Tuesday, June 6, the gathering hall of the Coral Gables Congregational Church was overflowing with citizens who stood against the removal of three children’s books from the elementary library of the Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes. 

The works in question? President Biden’s inaugural poem, The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman, The ABC’s of Black History by Rio Cortez and Lauren Semmer, and Love to Langston by Tony Medina and R. Gregory Christie. 

The removal of these volumes was spurred by only one parent’s complaint. An article in the Miami Herald found that the mother who urged the banning of these titles, Daily Salinas, also pushed the school to remove Countries in Crisis: Cuba, claiming that all of the works indoctrinated students. A review committee at the school determined that while the latter is appropriate and can remain in the elementary school library, the other three works were more mature and were moved to the middle school library. 

After hearing these books were being removed, the Coral Gables Congregational Church, partnered with local bookseller Books & Books to quickly create the Sanctuary for Banned Books at the church. The event allowed attendees to read the works for themselves and take a stand against literary censorship for all grade levels.

There were also giveaways that included banned books so that everyone could own them and read them to their children. The books also came with messages from their respective authors giving thanks to readers for supporting their cause. 

Mitchell Kaplan, the owner of Books & Books, hosted the event. While giving his opening speech, he became choked up due to the massive support from the local community and how quickly this event was pulled together. 

“It is a celebration of reading, a celebration of writing, and a celebration, particularly of these three books,” Kaplan stated. “We should never want the government or nobody ever deciding what we are able to read.” 

In attendance was Richard Blanco, who read poems during President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. He read the poem Amanda Gorman wrote for President Biden’s inauguration, The Hill We Climb.

Most notable was that throughout the event, children read the banned books along with the speakers. 

One mother, Silvia Royer, said there is nothing inappropriate in these books. She felt that the celebration was a wonderful way to acknowledge these books and teach her kids valuable lessons. 

“It’s great, it’s good trouble — which reading should never be trouble,” Royer said. “It brings knowledge of different cultures and people outside of their tiny worldview. And [children] become more compassionate people.”

Many believe that Florida has given too much leeway to parents to question aspects of education, which can and has led to book banning. However, the massive turnout for The Sanctuary of Banned Books showed that a community can come together to oppose literary censorship, bringing hope all across Miami-Dade County.

Rachel Rodriguez is a senior majoring in digital journalism at Florida International University. She is interested in analyzing media trends and film. After graduation, she aspires to attend law school and become an attorney focusing on media law.