Kid Lit Authors Send Letter to Congress to Speak Out Against Book Banning

The letter, signed by 1,300 children's and YA authors and read into the record at a congressional hearing, spoke of the harm to kids from book censorship.

At a House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties meeting today to “examine the ongoing efforts to prohibit discussion in K-12 classrooms about

Author Christina Soontornvat drafted the letter
to Congress.
Photo: Sam Bond

American history, race, and LGBTQ+ issues, and to punish teachers who violate vague and discriminatory state laws by discussing these topics,” a letter signed by 1,300 children’s literature authors was read into the record.

“We, the undersigned, authors and illustrators of books for children and teens, condemn the efforts by organized groups to purge books from our nation’s schools. Our concern is not for the books themselves, but for the children, families, and communities who are caught in the crosshairs of these campaigns,” the letter began.

It was signed by authors of different generations and genres, award winners, and bestsellers, including Christina Soontornvat—who drafted the letter—Jason Reynolds, Judy Blume, Rick Riordan, Jacqueline Woodson, Dav Pilkey, Alex Gino, Jenny Han, Jeff Kinney, Angie Thomas, and Yuyi Morales.

The letter continued, in part:

"When books are removed or flagged as inappropriate, it sends the message that the people in them are somehow inappropriate. It is a dehumanizing form of erasure. Every reader deserves to see themselves and their families positively represented in the books in their schools. These books are important for all children. Reading stories that reflect the diversity of our world builds empathy and respect for everyone’s humanity. At a time when our country is experiencing an alarming rise in hate crimes, we should be searching for ways to increase empathy and compassion at every turn.

"Libraries are bastions of the First Amendment. They provide equal access to a wealth of knowledge and ideas for all public school students. When individuals and organizations seek to advance their own political agendas or personal beliefs by censoring books, they infringe upon students’ constitutional rights."

Soontornvat tweeted the letter with the following thread:

“1,300+ children's authors & illustrators have signed a letter strongly condemning efforts to ban books. We call on Congress, state leaders, & school boards to protect students' rights to access books they need & deserve.

“This has been sent to the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights & Civil Liberties. Most of these signatures were gathered in under 48 hours. Many more wanted to sign but missed the deadline. Kidlit authors are united on this issue.

“We all have the power to speak out against censorship and the hateful, dehumanizing rhetoric that has defined the recent banning campaigns. As you attend school board meetings & write to your trustees, we hope you will use this letter to support your case.”

Recently the author of the award-winning titles All Thirteen and A Wish in the Dark, among others, was told she wouldn’t be invited to speak to students at a Texas school, because school staff feared that conservative parents would complain—not because of the content of any of her books or because of any public statements she has made on political or heated issues but because she lives in the liberal city of Austin.

In April, the committee chaired by Maryland representative Jamie Raskin, held a hearing on the escalating number of book banning attempts.

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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