We Need Diverse Books has joined the fight against censorship. The organization, which emerged in 2014 to advocate for diversity and inclusion in the publishing industry, announced a December 1 launch for its three-pronged #BooksSaveLives initiative. Books Save Lives will give as much as $10,000 in grants to schools and libraries in underserved communities so they can purchase challenged and banned books for their collections.
“Book bans nationwide are affecting authors’ bottom line, and they are disproportionately affecting diverse authors, according to PEN America,” WNDB executive director Caroline Richmond stated. According to a report that PEN America released in September, books addressing gender identity, sexuality, or race have been challenged this past year in 138 school districts, which includes 5,000 individual schools and involves four million students.
The book that was most challenged and banned this past year is Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe. Such perennial bestsellers as The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison are included on the American Library Association’s list of the 10 books most often challenged and banned this past year.
Besides the grants, WNDB is working with grassroots organizations in battleground states to produce educational materials for teachers and librarians to facilitate conversations with both parents and students about censorship and the current spike in book challenges and bans.
Richmond noted that #BooksSaveLives will also support diverse authors whose books have been challenged and banned by organizing school visits and book giveaways. After all, she noted, “These bans are critically impacting authors’ income: halting classroom visits and slowing sales, two vital income streams for creators.”
#BooksSaveLives will kick off on December 1 with a social media campaign: supporters are encouraged to post photos on social media of themselves with a book that saved—or had a major impact on—their lives, using the hashtag #BooksSaveLives.
WNDB also requests supporters to speak up at school board meetings, request diverse books at their local libraries, and to purchase diverse books at their local bookstores. People can also financially support WNDB in this initiative by donating money to the organization; the money raised in this campaign will be used, WNDB said in a release, “to provide support and resources to the teachers, librarians, and authors most affected by the book bans.”
“While supporting the educators and authors most affected by the bans, we will raise awareness, provide resources, and create positive change,” the statement said.