Country-wide attention has been brought to Rockingham, Virginia, this week. The public school district in this city is fighting back against book bans. In response to this situation and similar events across the nation, authors and social advocates are donating generous sums to an organization determined to protect free speech and free expression. Read on to find out more about these book heroes!
Event that Led to Walkouts and Donations
In Rockingham County, Virginia, the school board voted to temporarily ban a list of over 50 books. The ultimate goal of the ban was to lead to a full review of the library’s content. Among the books that were prohibited, many of the works included themes of race, relations to the LGBTQ+ community, and mentions of mental health. This decision was made in one of their first meetings of the year, with only one person voting against both parts of the movement. Just days ago, on January 24, multiple high schools in the area protested this decision through organized walkouts.
The students not only felt angered by the removal but underrepresented in a decision that directly affected them. The librarians, teachers, and other educators expressed their devastation as well. Their empathy went to the students, but they, too, were disappointed at the lack of support and trust in their jobs that this vote proved. Librarians felt their competence was being contented. With this, they are forced to reevaluate the curriculum, and mandate students return specific books. Now that the ban was fulfilled, the students within this district are determined to bring attention to the critical situation.
A Larger Issue at Hand
It is important first to note that this school district is not the only one battling censorship in the United States. Pen America’s Index of School Book Bans declares almost 1500 instances of individual book bans in the first half of the 2022-23 school year. Equivalent to over 100 titles a month, this number breaks censorship records for the 2021-2022 school year. According to the same group, “there are currently nearly 100 pending bills that would restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how K-12 teachers can discuss racism and sexism.”
Around the country, brave students and adults alike are continuing to protest the bans affecting their counties. The students of Rockingham County specifically are already planning more public gatherings for this week. Their efforts are not going unnoticed.
Authors Guild Steps In
The Authors Guild Foundation is the oldest organization for published writers. Their work is dedicated to protecting the rights of both readers and writers, ensuring the right to free speech and free expression is not jeopardized in our country. As of January 24, 2025, the Authors Guild Foundation announced its largest campaign in history. The campaign will work urgently towards many initiatives: disputing book bans, aiding legal services for authors who are affected by bans, protecting writer’s work from AI theft, and other piracy and advocacy issues.
In addition to the funds provided by the organization, you may be pleased to hear some of your favorite others are supporting this initiative. Among other donors, the Authors Guild Association gratefully notes they have received:
“…leadership commitments of $1 million each from David and Michelle Baldacci, Suzanne Collins and Charles “Cap” Pryor, John and Renee Grisham, James Patterson, and Doug and Christine Preston. Additional supporters include the Nora Roberts Foundation, Dan Brown, and Judy Blume. Campaign receipts currently total $5,655,000.”
Students, educators, parents, writers, and others are uniting against the censorship public schools and libraries are facing around the country. With their access to means and prominent standing, the Authors Guild Foundation is echoing the voices of the citizens. The right to free speech and free expression are foundational blocks of our democracy and existence as a free country. As the physical books are taken off the shelves, the hard work of writers and the important stories of individuals are being stripped away with them. Often intertwined in these stories are the lives of marginalized and under-represented groups. Book bans tear the lungs out of intellectual freedom, restricting the fresh air brought by new and diverse perspectives.