I Will Not Remain Silent When Books Are Being Banned

Back in January, when I read this headline in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Movement would ban LGBTQ books, online materials from school libraries,” I felt like I was in an episode of the “The Twilight Zone.”  

I felt like I had been blasted to the past. But no. It is not the 1950s or 1960s. It is 2022, people, and our “leaders” are trying to ban books. 

Where is the uproar from those people who were so alarmed when they thought Dr. Seuss’s books were being banned, when in actuality they just stopped the reprinting of six of his books? And this decision was made by the publishing company. 

Where is the disdain for cancel culture now, when LGBTQ books are now being targeted? Students like James Liming, the young trans man featured in the news story, are making connections in books and finding the windows and mirrors that Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop talks about in her essay, Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.” 

These books are saving lives.

Librarians are saving lives, and now this is all being threatened by people who are trying to guarantee their re-election. These same people don’t want us to teach Black history in school. They are using words like “critical race theory” and  “woke,” and banning books, to incite their base.  

As a school librarian, I always ask my students, “Did you read the book?” 

I have to ask these people the same thing. Have you read the books? I guarantee the answer is no. 

Just like I tell my students, if you haven’t read the book, then how can you be a part of the discussion? Do legislators really think banning books will stop our young people who are searching and looking for information? They must not have heard of the internet. 

As a mother and an educator, I know that the quickest way to get a kid to do something is to tell them they cannot do something. 

I Will Continue to Fight for My Students' Intellectual Freedom

As the 2020 School Librarian of the Year, I knew I had to say something. I have made a commitment to make sure that students have access and that their intellectual freedom is ensured. I will not remain silent during this time. 

As Zora Neale Hurston said, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”

I will not live in fear. I will continue to fight for the intellectual freedom of my students and my children. I will continue to distribute and donate books at every opportunity I get. 

I will continue funding grants for teachers using my nonprofit, so that teachers can continue to educate our children, so our children can be compassionate and informed citizens. I will provide scholarships to students who read books and make change in their community. Our young people are watching, and what we do now matters.  

Former Georgia State School Superintendent John Barge said that schools are not the place for “talking to children about, you know, they can be whatever gender they want to be.” 

Do you think books are the reason a child is transgender or gay? Do you think banning these books will stop us from having transgender kids?

Well, if you do, then you need to go back to school. These books are needed to help students understand the plight of others and learn more about themselves in the process. 

Schools are not the place for gun violence, but you would rather focus your energy on banning library books than pass laws to help stop school shootings!  

We need more voices advocating for our children. Teachers have been targeted during the pandemic and now leaders want to be able to prosecute school librarians!

This has to stop and we have to do something now before it is too late.

For those of you who don’t think this issue applies to you, then just wait. They will use this to ban books about the Holocaust, books about slavery, and books about racism. 

This is no time to stay silent. I encourage everyone to write to your local leaders about the importance of intellectual freedom. Here are some other actions you can take to keep students’ intellectual freedom alive:

  • Donate to organizations who provide access to books 
  • Join the PTA
  • Vote
  • Buy books and gift books to the young people in your life

This is the beginning of a story that will not have a good ending.  

Cicely Lewis is a school librarian named the 2020 National Librarian of the Year by School Library Journal and Scholastic, a 2019 Library Journal Mover and Shaker and the 2019 National Teacher Award for Lifelong Readers by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and Penguin Random House (PRH). In 2017, she started the Read Woke challenge in response to the shootings of young unarmed ...

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