Bucks County welcomes this year’s national Banned Books Week, September 18-24, with an assortment of events. This year’s theme is “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.”
Banned Books Week was founded in 1982 by Judith Krug, a First Amendment and library activist, who created the event in response to happenings during the Reagan Era. Conservative zealots, prompted by television evangelist Jerry Falwell, removed books from schools and libraries during the 1980s.
Over the course of the last year, Pennridge and Central Bucks school districts have witnessed right-wing opposition to books of the LGBTQ genre as well as content deemed sexually promiscuous, ungodly or that presents white Americans in an unflattering – yet truthful – context. The ACLU has been monitoring new school policies that encroach upon students’ First Amendment rights.
This year’s Banned Books Week takes on new significance amidst the continued attempts to deny students access to books that reflect the real world.
“Little Free Libraries” have popped up to fill the void created by ultra conservative school boards and offer students access to banned literature that experts deem instrumental toward the development of personal growth and a critical thought process.
“The Pennridge GOP has a list of books they are trying to get out of the schools,” said Adam Bencsik, chair of Pennridge Dems and a committee person in East Rockhill. He said the club hopes “to make sure books that have been banned remain available and to get people thinking and talking about what’s happening.” To attend, RSVP on the group’s FaceBook page. Additional details, including the location, will be provided upon registration. Admission: Free
“Students and families should have access to the books that were chosen by certified librarians,“ said Kristen Mei Chase, author, podcaster, editor and publisher of Cool Mom Picks, and one of the event’s guest speakers.
With three children in Central Bucks schools, Mei Chase has direct insight into the ambiguous and narrow minded policies that have drawn national attention to public education in Pennsylvania.
“Even if you don’t have kids in school, even if you don’t have kids, this is not going to stop at the school level and this is chipping away at our freedoms,” she said. “It’s so important for community members to activate themselves. There are actions that people can take right now.”
During the event Mei Chase will be outlining several easy steps for members of the community to pro-actively push back against literary censorship in public schools that are not time consuming.
“Bring a Book/Take a Book” is another feature of the evening. Guests are welcome to swap out one of their banned books with another they have not yet read; any extra books will be donated to “Little Public Libraries” in the area.
Participate in a Writer’s Workshop sponsored by the Bucks County Book Fest on Saturday, September 24 from 9am to 12pm at one of three locations. Select the time and venue that interests you and buy tickets here. Admission: $30 General/$15 Student
Come out for food and libations at Books and Brew on Saturday, September 24 at 4pm. Chat with 12 different bestselling and local authors who will rotate through three different Doylestown eateries: The Hattery Stove & Still, Hops/Scotch Cocktail Bar and The Garden Bar & Puck. Admission: Free
The first annual Banned Books Parade, “Free to Read… You and Me” will begin at 4pm on Saturday. Additional details to be provided by Advocates for Inclusive Education Bucks County on Friday, September 23. Admission: Free
Can’t attend any of the above events? Check out these free virtual online events happening throughout the week.