How We Can Support Intellectual Freedom

October 1, 2016









Between the Lines is a series of posts focused on better understanding books, trends in writing, and the labels associated with these.

banned-books-featured-imageBanned Books Week is wrapping up today. But just because a week celebrating Banned Books is ending doesn’t mean we can’t continue to celebrate banned books ourselves, discuss censorship in literature, and how it can best be combatted. I recently got into conversations with 4thhouseontheleft and M Reads Books around how we can make a difference when it comes to understanding why books are challenged and banned in our communities. I mentioned a few things in my first 2016 Banned Books Week post, but I barely scratched the surface. Therefore, to wrap up our week, let’s explore what we can do!

Note: On the United States Banned Books Week website there are additional resources broken up by your relationship to banned books. Feel free to stop here and explore more!


Read Banned and Challenged Books

As I mentioned in my Understanding Challenged Books post, reading and reviewing books on the banned/challenged list are critical. By spending our time, money, and resources on these books we are making a statement to libraries, schools, and publishing companies that the themes in these books are important to us. They matter and should be known and understood. Banned books are almost always my favorite books. They challenge me to think in new ways and understand new ideas. We need these books to help us and our communities grow.


Participate in the Discussion Online

Don’t let the end of Banned Books Week mean you are silent on this topic for the rest of the year. Social media has given people a new way to share their opinions– and it allows them to spread like wildfire. The ALA came up with the hashtag #BannedBooksWeek which has been connecting people all over the internet in dialogues around banned and challenged books. On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram– you name it, people are talking about it. And the more we talk about it, the more people will notice. It’s a snowball effect.

If you are a book blogger, you can also host the conversation in your preferred forum: Blog, BookTube, Bookstagram,  Litsy, etc. For example, this week I’ve been engaged in some great conversations with my fellow book bloggers. Check out their awesome posts at the bottom of this post and see what we’ve been talking about!


Participate in the Discussion In Person

This seems obvious, and for those of us deep in the conversations around banned and challenged books it might feel like everyone already knows these things. But it’s amazing how few people actually know about book banning. When you are reading a book you know is banned, talk to people about it. Bring it up in book clubs, in casual conversation around what you’re currently reading. Uncertain what to talk about? Check out my Banned and Challenged Books Discussion Questions. Word of mouth is still the most powerful form of sharing information.

It’s extra important to address this topic with our youth. 4thhouseontheleft recently shared with me that she tries to read at least one banned book during this week with her 8-year-old daughter. Once done, they talk about it and why the book might be challenged. Or, if you don’t have time for that, find a book they already love and host this conversation (Harry Potter is banned for witchcraft!) reflecting on why other people might not want this book to be read by everyone.


Be an Advocate in your Community

When a book is banned or challenged, it’s up to us to become advocates for intellectual freedom and the first amendment as it pertains to books. Here is a list of things you can do to help advocate for the book in question:

  • Be familiar with the process: Every library and school have challenge and reconsideration processes for banning/challenging books. Become familiar with the one(s) that affects you.
  • Petition the Media: Talk to the local newspapers and radio stations. Focus not on the content of the book, but on the issue of censorship itself.
  • Request a Book Review: Propose at a school or library board meeting that the board appoints a committee of professionals to review the book and present their expert opinion. Encourage district employees, English teachers, librarians, etc. to be involved.
  • Review Board Policy: Make certain the school or library board hasn’t violated their own policy. If the policy is unclear, ambiguous, or biased against intellectual freedom, request the policy is reviewed and revised.

As I mentioned above, I want to give a shout-out to some of my blogger friends. The following posts are all featuring banned/challenged books and their ideas around this topic. They are great posts, and I hope you check out their blogs!

A Blog Of One’s Own 

Pt 1: On the Practice of Banning Books  |  Pt 2: The Problem  |  Pt 3: The Reasons   |  Pt 4: Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby


2016 Banned Books Week: Spotlight on Diversity

Lost In A Good Book

Banned Books Week: 1984  |  Banned Books Week: The Color Purple  |  Banned Books Week: Winnie-the-Pooh  |  Banned Books Week: Harry Potter


Did you also write a post about banned books? Share it below!


What do you think?

  • Do you have other ideas around how we can support banned/challenged books and intellectual freedom?
  • Have you ever been involved in a book challenge? Share your story!
  • What is your favorite challenged/banned book?
  • Did you write a post about banned books? Share it below!


  • Brendon October 2, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    I love talking about action planning. I think we often miss this piece when doing ‘social justice’ work. We talk and we talk, we read and read. Then we stop. I am thankful to you for providing ways folks can continue to advocate for intellectual freedom in tangible actions!

    • Jackie B October 2, 2016 at 2:27 pm

      Thanks, Brendon! I agree– it’s easy to wax eloquent on how to do something the right way, and to philosophize, but I don’t see people taking action consistently. As I keep blogging I hope I can continue to show people ways to take action in their communities in regards to book-related pursuits.

  • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom October 2, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    I loved your posts for Banned Books Week!

    • Jackie B October 2, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      Thanks, Amanda! It’s something I am very passionate about. 🙂 I just hope I’ve done something to encourage people to take action and stand up for intellectual freedom.

  • Read Diverse Books October 4, 2016 at 1:01 am

    The Banned Books Week kind of snuck up on me because I was preparing for Latinx Heritage Month. Perhaps next year I’ll do a series of blog posts as well. Yours were brilliant! Of course, I will stand up for my right to read all year, not just this week, because some of my favorite books also tend to be challenged books. 😀

    • Jackie B October 6, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      Thanks, Naz! That’s high praise, coming from you. I’m sorry I couldn’t participate more openly in Latinx Heritage Month! But I finally got to Dante and Aristotle, so that review will be coming. 🙂 I’ll be trying to make a place for Latinx Heritage Month next year. So many great things to celebrate: So little time. 😉

      And, of course you will keep standing up for your right to read! I have been reading more and more challenged books myself, and they seem to always by my favorites. You are not alone!

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