This week is National Banned Books Week. As the banning of certain materials has skyrocketed across the country, several local organizations are hoping to bring awareness by making some of those books available.
Organizers of a banned book collection in downtown Erie told us the material is being banned at an alarming rate, and they’re looking to provide resources for people who need them.
Schools and libraries throughout the United States are wiping books from their shelves after some administrators ruled it’s not appropriate for youth to consume.
But advocates of the LGBTQ+ community argue it’s about providing the right resources and stories for those in desperate need.
Several organizations have collected banned books to distribute to little libraries throughout Erie and Crawford counties, especially in places where some say voices are being suppressed.
“Even in areas like Meadville with the Penncrest school district. They have a long list of books that have been banned within school libraries so queer youth in that school district have a really hard time getting access to resources and those books that could potentially be lifesaving,” said Alex Sphon, president of NWPA Pride Alliance.
Sphon said queer youth are at a much higher risk of suicide than others their age, and when they have the ability to read stories similar to their own, it can change the direction of their life.
Local literature supporters were happy to help with this initiative however they could.
“It was really a no-brainer; we have 30,000 books in our store. A lot of them end up on this banned book list,” said Kyle Churman, co-owner of Werner Books & Coffee.
Churman said he brought books relating to queer youth, race and many others. He added even one of his book clubs this year is reading books on the banned list.
“Any entity that says you shouldn’t read something or shouldn’t have access to it because ‘we’ say so, that’s not what we’re looking for. I think everyone should have access to the books they need, and the books they want,” Churman continued.
An organizer told us that this drive really blew away all of their expectations.
“We had hoped to get about 600 books. I can say just looking at the table now we’re probably already at 600 books,” said Sphon. “If we aren’t close to 1000 books, I would be surprised at the end of the night.”
Sphon claimed that this book drive will have a huge impact on our local communities.