URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — To kick off Banned Books Week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois had a discussion and workshop in Urbana to educate people on book banning and what they can do.
In June, Illinois was the first state to pass legislation that will take funding away from any school or library that bans certain books. ACLU Director of Public Policy Ed Yohnka said this is no time to stop.
“Show up. You know, it turns out that democracy doesn’t begin and end with an election,” he said.
Yohnka said people can’t just rely on politicians to stop book bans, so he put together a workshop and discussion in Urbana on Sunday.
“It’s really a [template] for people to learn what role they can play, in terms of confronting this effort to ban books,” he said.
University of Illinois Professor Emily Knox, who spoke at the event, grew up thinking about why some people want to keep books from others.
“I have been interested in banned books basically my whole life,” Knox said. “My mother was a high school librarian, and we observed Banned Books Week every year.”
Knox understands why someone would have trouble with some books, but said banning books does everyone a disservice.
“I think what’s happening with a lot of these books is that these are actually difficult topics for adults to discuss, much less talking about it with your 6-year-old.”
She said a lot of times the books aren’t even read by those who want to ban them, and that it is typically due to subject matter usually dealing with LGBTQ+ topics, racism, or sexism.
“The book is just a catalyst to talk about other things that are happening in the world.”
The American Library Association said that last year, they counted the most challenges to books in 20 years, and that figure doubled from 2021.
The ACLU said people who are concerned about the spread of book bans can do three things: stay connected with their local library board, support local schools and libraries, and finally, just thank a librarian.
The effort to ban books has gotten worse, too. Recently, a bomb threat was called in to the state library in Springfield. After all that is going on, Knox said there is one good thing to come from the recent discussion.
“The best thing about it is like, people are talking about books and reading. And what could be more exciting than talking about books and reading?”