How We Can Stop Book Bans in Our Community

I am a mom to a first and second grader who, thanks to their incredible public school teachers, have already fallen in love with reading. I stand with students, parents, librarians, classroom teachers and staff who believe our public school districts can and must do more to combat the white nationalist extremism resulting in an first wave of book bans in our schools.

young girl stands at library shelf and selects a book

This is War

A fellow mother recently told me I should keep books like Flamerby Mike Curato, a multiple award-winning semi-autobiographical coming of age graphic novel told by a gay, Filipino-American boy, in my “personal arsenal” instead of insisting the school district police return it to the high school library that they recently took it from.

It struck me that this mindset is in a large part why our town’s school board, like so many others, has been trapped in this debate over banning books for the past 10+ months. The people fighting to ban books, that are educational and age appropriate, aren’t interested in finding compromises that work for all students and parents.

They are at war.

A war they plan to win, one book, one seat, and one school board at a time.

These people are fighting a war in which books are weapons and collections of books, or libraries, are arsenals.

Isn’t it Someone Else’s Job to Fight Back?

School boards and administrations, who are duty bound to consider the needs and interests of all students, are being held in hostage by threats of litigation. Public forums have become personal pulpits for transphobic and racist hate speech spewed by minor-league political figures, many of whom do not even have kids in our public schools. Four north Texas school boards have been taken over by hyper-partisan trustees backed by a cell phone company. Trust me, I wish I was making this up. Several of these boards are considering or have already adopted heavy handed book selection and review policies that interfere with librarian’s abilities to do their jobs, and give politicized school board members, not parents or educators, the power to determine what books are “appropriate” for all students.

Teachers and librarians who try to create learning environments where all kids feel celebrated and safe, by displaying inclusive books and posters, are being labeled “groomers” and forced by administrators to take their underground support- all to protect the feelings of grown-ups.

School boards attempt to appease those who demand they remove all books that make them feel offended or uncomfortable, by reactively removing and restricting books they believe meet the intentionally vague and subjective criteria of “pervasive vulgarity” or pulling targeted books off of shelves before a formal review process even occurs- no matter how baseless a complaint may be. The vast majority of book challenges target stories about LGBTQ+, BIPOC and other minority communities.

The problem is, every book a public school district allows to be restricted or removed chips away at our students’ constitutionally protected First Amendment rights and sends a clear message to our marginalized students that their sense of safety and belonging in our schools is negotiable.

Houston, We have a Silent Majority Problem

When I speak to friends about my alarm about the constant barrage of book bans being launched in 2022, they reassure me that the adults standing up at school board meetings demanding books be removed from public school library shelves represent a “vocal minority.” If that’s true, I can’t help but wonder what it will take for the silent majority to start making some noise. I think about all of the little black squares that covered profile pictures during the summer of 2020 and the Pride filters that flood my feeds every June.

Expressing solidarity with those fighting for diversity, equity and inclusion is easy when it’s trendy and cute. How about when it’s not? What message are we sending to our school aged kids and their peers, by saying nothing when adults are trying to ban books that make some people feel uncomfortable? Do we tell our teens to just accept America is now a country where adults in charge can ban and restrict access to books and ideas as they see fit? Are we still the land of the free if our public school students’ freedom to read certain books is restricted by the political whims and religious beliefs of adults?

Yes, but…

If you feel like there are books you don’t want your child to read for whatever reason, then good news- they don’t have to! Most of the challenged books are library books, which are entirely optional reading. Many districts offer ways for parents to see the books their child checks out or to opt-in to notifications when older students borrow young adult books. Most Texas districts also allow parents to opt their kids out of even required reading by requesting an alternate instructional resource. While these are rights all parents can exercise, their right to restrict books should only extend to their own child, and not anyone else’s.

I Want to do More to Stop Book Banning in My Community.

If you believe all students have a right to read stories that reflect their lived experiences, or experiences that are very different than their own, and want our public schools to adopt curriculum, policies and procedures that ensure all Students are affirmed, safe and celebrated- our school boards, and maybe more importantly our students, need to hear from you.

Here are some ways to get involved and make your concerns known.

  1. Start in your community. Recordings of past school board meetings are usually available online. Attend school board meetings in person, whenever possible.
  2. Sign up to address your school board during the public forum part of your next school board meeting. Or if public speaking is not your thing, send an e-mail to communicate your support for a diverse and inclusive school library.
  3. Contact your students’ teachers, librarians, principals, superintendents and board members. Tell them how much you appreciate their efforts to make sure school is a safe, inclusive space for all children- and if applicable, respectfully suggest ways you think they could do more to stop book bans. Ask how you can support them in these goals this year.
  4. Pay attention and vote in local school board races. Heck, maybe even run! Read between the lines on any fear-mongering mailers you get. Research what hyper-partisan political organizations may be financially backing candidates for these non-partisan positions. Elections are usually held in November or May, and voter turnout is often VERY low.
  5. Use your social media platforms to inform and engage others, and encourage them to speak up in support of students’ rights to read a wide range of inclusive and diverse books. The loudest voices in this fight right now seem to be those who support banning and restricting books, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Resources to Report and Combat Censorship and Book Bans

Get the Book Ban Buster “Parent Playbook” published by Red, Wine and Blue.

Report censorship to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and find resources for more support.

Check out this sample template for contacting your school board about book bans, by Book Riot.


Disclaimer: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates and other Affiliate Programs designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com, Target.com, Nordstrom, ABC Mouse, and other affiliate sites.


About Anne Russey

Anne has spent most of her life living in Katy, Texas or finding her way back to it. After several years in Houston, Anne, her husband, two daughters and their dog migrated back to Katy. Years spent trying to juggle full time motherhood and full time community mental health jobs led Anne to open her own counseling practice. Anne Russey Counseling online therapy for moms, anxious adults and LGBTQ+ people throughout Texas. Anne is at her best as a mom when she is on the go {with or without her kids} and would take a dentist appointment over imaginary play any day. Anne is learning to accept she will never get it all done and to embrace the joy she finds in reheated cups of coffee while her kids play independently for a few precious moments. You can find Anne’s thoughts, usually related to mental health, on her blog.

Leave a Comment