City Cast

How to Observe Banned Books Week in Philadelphia

Natalia Aldana
Natalia Aldana
Posted on October 4
A woman enters a book store with the words "Censorship leaves us in the dark" stenciled above the door.

The exterior wall of the Miami Books & Books bookstore in Coral Gables, Florida listing banned books. (Jeffrey Greenberg/Getty Images)

Did you know a Pennsylvanian founded Banned Books Week?

Born and raised in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, Judith “Judy” Fingeret Krug was the executive director of the Freedom to Read Foundation, and in 1982, she started Banned Books Week as a time for librarians, teachers, and readers of all ages to celebrate “forbidden” titles and protect the public’s right to seek information and express themselves without barriers.

It’s a proud legacy at a time when a small minority of parents and stakeholders across the country have filed grievances with books representing LQBTQ+ themes and protagonists, as well as characters of color. PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans found that 75% of reported book bans in the last school year were connected to organized efforts, mainly from advocacy groups, elected officials, or enacted legislation.

Luckily, Philadelphia proper has faced few challenges so far. But the same can't be said for nearby communities.

Pennsylvania ranked third in the nation for book bans, with 457 across 11 districts — many in Central Bucks County, where City Cast Pittsburgh's Mallory Falk previously chronicled student efforts to defeat them.

Legislators are weighing in, too. LancasterOnline reported on a proposed bill to prevent book bans at libraries and public schools, and another bill that would require schools to notify parents about "sexually explicit content" in curriculums.

Banned Books Week runs from Oct. 1 through Saturday, Oct. 7 nationwide. If you’re fired up to fight for libraries and banned books, here’s how to participate in the Philadelphia area:

📚 Check Out Banned Books

Head to your local library and check out a banned book, including banned children’s books.

📚 Share Your Banned Book

📚 Levar Burton’s Insta Live

The man who helped millennials fall in love with reading will be hosting a live discussion on his anti-censorship work in conversation with the Banned Books Week organization.

📚 Attend a Virtual Discussion

Listen in on a virtual discussion hosted by PEN America with renowned authors, including Dave Eggers and Carmen Maria Machado, as well as banned authors such as Maia Kobabe, who wrote “Gender Queer,” and more.

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