TULSA, Oklahoma – It’s Banned Book Week, and a Tulsa literature expert said that as a community, we’re challenging books more than ever.
Every September, Banned Book Week highlights the challenges facing books in schools and libraries.
This comes as the American Library Association said the number of attempts to restrict books in schools, universities and public libraries is on track to surpass last year’s total.
Magic City Books in downtown Tulsa has a list of last year’s challenged books on their front window.
They said they had it year-round, and it’s a good reminder of why Green Country shouldn’t restrict access to books.
Jeff Martin, President of Magic City Books said, “It’s never felt more important than it does now. Just because things are moving so fast in terms of book challenges.”
The store sells “Flamer,” one of the books that were removed from Tulsa Public Schools libraries earlier this year.
Education Secretary Ryan Walters called “Flamer” inappropriate sexual material.
The American Library Association said there have been 681 contested books nationwide so far this year. Last year there were a total of 729 challenges.
Martin said books shouldn’t be restricted.
“We’re here to stand up for freedom of speech against censorship and to make sure people have access to the information they need,” Martin said. “When I was a kid, books were my way, and reading was my way to open doors to new pursuits. When I see how other people live, I think books are like empathy kits.”
He continued, “These are kits that teach you how to live an empathetic life.”
The American Library Association said many challenges are directed at books that deal with or are written by minorities. Alex Wade of the Equality Center in downtown Tulsa said her library is very important.
“We have ‘Ruby Fruit Jungle,’ which was banned in schools for a long time,” Wade said. “We have real books that have been historically challenged, and we’re actually trying to buy more banned books that have only recently come out.”
Wade said libraries need to be places where people can read whatever they want.
“If you are unable to read, to listen, only to hear voices from other communities outside of your own, you will be living in a bubble. You won’t understand what’s really going on in the world outside of what’s right in front of you.”
The Equality Center is holding a t-shirt campaign to raise funds to buy more books for the library.
Meanwhile, some parents said that as the challenges to books increase, they are speaking out because they have the right to say what their children can and can’t read.
Jennie White of Reclaim Oklahoma Parent Empowerment told FOX23 that she wasn’t surprised parents were speaking out when she looked at this year’s list of contested books.
At Tulsa Public Schools, the challenge books this year are Gender Queer and Flamer.
White said she’s read Gender Queer and said parents should challenge books they don’t think are appropriate.
“Parents have an absolute duty in a public setting, especially in a public school, to question anything that they feel contradicts the way they are raising their child,” White said.
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