Earlier this year, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) published a digital resource for librarians as part of its push for freedom of expression (and book titles) in school libraries. The manual, an eight-page PDF file titled “Defend LGBTQ Stories,” outlines a number of difficult or delicate circumstances educators will encounter as their students develop literary tastes, and offers specific advice on how to be an ally and set an example of compassion for all students. The guide offers librarians simplified tools for de-stigmatizing LGBTQ themes, protesting banned books, staying up to date on school policy changes, communicating with the NCAC, and sharing their experiences on social media.
This fledgeling resource — a small, but mighty PDF — comes as part of a subset of the NCAC’s Youth Free Expression Program called the Kids’ Right to Read Project (KRRP). This grassroots-inspired program unites community members and national organizations to oppose the growing tangle of restrictions placed on library media in American schools. According to the NCAC’s website, the KRRP rallies “teachers, booksellers, librarians, local reporters and free speech advocates” to protect the reading rights of students.
These subsets of the NCAC, itself an entity composed of fifty nonprofit organizations, do not have the legal clout to directly influence policy change in the American education system. Instead, they rely on time-tested community advocacy to drum up significant local support to challenge cases on an individual basis, while making these methods accessible to the public. Since 2016, for example, the Florida Citizens Alliance (FLCA) has pushed bills which aim to restrict materials allowed in Florida classrooms based on their educational value. The NCAC offers a thorough breakdown of the proposed legislation, a timeline for its development, and a history of the FLCA’s past initiatives. This document, available on the NCAC’s website, is free to read and share, and gives activists the help they need to make sure kids can read whatever they please.
While the NCAC’s resource “Defend LGBTQ Stories” is in effect a glorified How-To guide for being a properly “woke” librarian in an American school, it is nonetheless a tremendously productive and helpful tool which, in the hands of community activists and national associations alike, has the potential to effect real change and inspire a future generation that embraces diversity.
Featured Image via Arthur