Banned books week & literacy grants

Unfortunately, the freedom to read is constantly under attack — but these grants can help


America was built on Freedom. The guaranteed freedoms of speech, religion, press, assembly and the right to petition the government make Americans the freest group of people in the world.

The freedom to read is an essential part of our democracy. The American Library Association “promotes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one's opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular, and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those viewpoints to all who wish to read them.”

Reading is so critical to our freedoms that Author Daniel Pennac created the Reader's Bill of Rights:

In 2020, 273 books were challenged in libraries, schools and universities.
In 2020, 273 books were challenged in libraries, schools and universities. (Getty Images)
  1. The right to not read
  2. The right to skip pages
  3. The right to not finish
  4. The right to reread
  5. The right to read anything
  6. The right to escapism
  7. The right to read anywhere
  8. The right to browse
  9. The right to read out loud
  10. The right to not defend your tastes

Unfortunately, the freedom to read is constantly under attack when people try to limit access to reading materials and censor what is deemed controversial by themselves. Thirty-nine years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that school officials cannot ban books in libraries simply because of their content. However, books are still being challenged and banned today. Books are often challenged by groups and individuals with the best intentions: to protect others from what the challenger perceives as difficult ideas or information. In 2020, 273 books were challenged in libraries, schools and universities.

Banned Books Week was created shortly after the Supreme Court ruling and celebrates that most books challenged have remained available. Banned Books Week will be celebrated September 26 to October 2, 2021, and the theme is "Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us." Books that are featured during this week have been targeted through censorship in libraries and schools.

Funding is more critical than ever as libraries continue to serve their communities amid this censorship war. Here are ten literacy grant opportunities to help librarians fight censorship, keep books available in libraries and promote the freedom to read.

  • The American Association of School Librarians offers a variety of grants and awards for school libraries. 
  • Barnes and Noble supports pre-K-12 schools and not-for-profit arts and literacy organizations.
  • The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) Foundation identifies and supports programs that have significant impact on students, such as literacy.
  • The Lisa Libraries donates new children's books and small libraries to grassroots organizations throughout the U.S. that work with kids in poor and underserved areas.
  • The Lois Lenski Covey Foundation is dedicated to advancing literacy and fostering a love of reading among underserved and at-risk children and youth.
  • The National Home Library Foundation makes grants to fund books for libraries, schools, and literacy programs serving children, teens, or adults in need of reading and learning resources.
  • The Pizza Hut "Book It!" program is offered to K-6 teachers in communities throughout the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico where Pizza Huts are located. The program rewards students with Pizza Hut coupons for attaining reading goals that are established by the teacher.
  • The ProLiteracy National Book Fund provides adult literacy and basic education programs with educational materials to help teach adults to read.
  • The Snapdragon Book Foundation was started by a school librarian and seeks to foster children's literacy by providing grants to school libraries serving disadvantaged youth.
  • The Wish You Well Foundation supports nonprofit organizations in the United States that teach adults the literacy skills they need to communicate, grow, and thrive within their communities.

What will you do to get involved to support libraries, help fight censorship, and promote the freedom to read during #bannedbooksweek?

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