An Innovative Banned Book Fair Breaks Down Censorship Barriers

One pioneering college student is paving the way for access to books for her community. Read on to learn more about her groundbreaking initiative.

Book Bans Book Culture Book News
Books stacked on a table at a book fair. The bottom pages of the books are facing the photo. In the background is colorful blurry room.

All around the United States, public school and library books face backlash, threats of removal, and bans from parents, guardians, school officials, and politicians due to perceived inappropriate content. These books, which often illustrate diverse experiences, are attacked on all sides with the recent disbarment of school districts’ diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.

Book banning raises many questions about censorship, freedom of speech, and the right to knowledge. As much as important literature faces threats, there is just as much pushback from those who oppose book bans. Laws and policies protecting inclusivity, diversity, and students’ accessibility to knowledge are making headway in some states. In others, individuals are doing what they can to protect books in their community.

Backing the Banned

In Virginia, Bridgewater College student Katelin Carter needed an idea for her senior capstone project. After learning of the book bans that occurred earlier this year in local schools near her college, Carter hosted a book fair exclusively offering the titles removed from Rockingham County schools. Taking inspiration from the Scholastic Book Fairs many of us reminisce about from our childhoods, Booksavers of Virginia and the authors of the banned books donated the titles to begin Carter’s revolutionary set-up.

A paper travel map zoomed up to the state of Virginia. A red push is stuck in the middle of the state.

While for sale, the books were priced at whatever the customer was willing to pay to eliminate any financial barriers to the knowledge contained in these books, especially for teenagers and young adults. Many titles discussed LGBTQ+ content, like Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper, an important and becoming aspect of life that many teenagers use books to find solace and comfort in. Part of this book fair was meant to create a safe, healthy, educational space for everyone to learn and grow.

Restoring Hope

A colorful stack of hardcover picture books takes up half the photo. The white paper ends are facing the front of the photo, which is against a white background.

Katelin Carter says the community response to her fair was positive, which can be hard to come by when targeting large power structures like a school system. The funds generated by this fair will be donated to the National Coalition Against Censorship, an organization that has already contacted Rockingham County schools regarding their previous book bans and demanded that they be returned to the school shelves. Carter trusts this organization to do the most good with the proceeds.

Protecting access to knowledge is imperative to society’s growth and to fostering understanding among different communities. Although books may be banned in schools, it is more important than ever to increase their accessibility through other avenues, such as the innovative banned book fair Katelin Carter put together!

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