CONVENE YOUR ALLIES
Remember that you are not alone in this fight, and that there is strength in numbers. The National Coalition Against Censorship opposes efforts to ban books in both libraries and the curriculum, the American Library Association focuses on cases affecting public libraries, the ACLU intervenes when a book removal or restriction clearly violates the law, and PEN America and NCAC are there to support authors whenever their work is under attack.
- Report censorship to NCAC here, and/or report to other above mentioned organizations committed to the protection of free speech. We are ready to defend the right to read your work. Depending on the specifics of your case, our Kids’ Right to Read Project can advise on advocacy strategies, including writing public statements, sending letters of protest and seeking legal assistance.
- Notify your professional colleagues, including agents, managers, and publishers. They often have robust PR resources available and can speak to the merits of your book, and why they chose to publish it. If they know a controversy is afoot, your publisher may advise a reprint sooner rather than later.
- Contact intellectual freedom experts at the National Council of Teachers of English. They can work with you to publish a rationale to assist teachers and librarians who wish to adopt your book.
- Independent bookstores often value the opportunities to hold events with authors, and support the freedom to read. Find an independent bookseller near you.
- When individual supporters ask you how to help, direct them to the available resources, including NCAC’s Book Challenge Resource Center and the Unite Against Book Bans Action Toolkit, which include sample letters, talking points, social media strategies, and more.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA
- Galvanize your readers and supporters, including students, teachers, educators, and librarians. They can speak to the importance of your book by providing context for the hand-picked snippets circulated by critics. Direct them to resources linked throughout this document and ask them to write to the school district where the challenge is taking place.
Encourage them to:
- Join relevant Facebook Groups or other online affinity groups for librarians or teachers. This can be a helpful way to discuss your book and reveal its broader narrative for anyone who hasn’t read it in full.
CONTACT PRINT MEDIA
- Publish an opinion piece in local, national, or literary publications, your blog, and social media sites. Examples of authors speaking out can be found here.
- Respond to mainstream media requests for comments.
REACH OUT TO THE DISTRICT WHERE THE CHALLENGE IS TAKING PLACE
- Engage in opportunities to deliver statements to school boards, speak with students, and work with teachers and librarians. This can be an important opportunity to share your perspective. Zoom is an obvious and excellent tool for this.
- Reach out to schools that refuse to ban your books, offering support and appreciation. Propose to visit the school and/or discuss your book.
- Organize a panel with other authors whose works were challenged in the same place as yours.
TIP for dealing with media and school boards: TAKE CONTROL OF THE NARRATIVE
Speaking out helps correct the characterization of your book and reaffirms the importance and urgency of your story. It can also be cathartic, giving you renewed energy to fight the battle.
- Remember, those who call for book challenges typically haven’t read more than a few pages, so what you have to share about the larger themes and the context of the book can go a long way.
- Emphasize the ways that your book positively impacts its readers. This can force your critics to take responsibility for the potential impact of censoring work. For example, reading stories that include difficult subject matter can often help young people navigate challenging situations in their own lives, and/or build empathy for others.
- Avoid going on the defensive, which only gives unwarranted emphasis to elements of the book that are considered controversial.
- Avoid the use of sarcasm to belittle those who are advocating for the book removal. Some parents are responding out of misguided fears and others have been misled. Sarcasm also can feed into perceptions of elitism and encourage a sense of combativeness among critics.
- Avoid responding in anger. Be the voice of reason. When engaging in public discussions on your challenged book, ask questions of your challenger which can reveal the root of their criticism.
- Prepare using NCAC’s Media Interview Tip Sheet.
Don’t stop writing the stories that need to be told. Remember that the goal of the censors is to silence your voice. Our society thrives on the circulation of books that tell as many different kinds of stories as there are different kinds of readers.