Reading Is a Right: How Little Free Library Fights Book Bans

By Margret Aldrich

Book banning is on the rise in America. As a leader in equitable book access and member of the Unite Against Book Bans and Banned Books Week coalitions, we are proud to work alongside Little Free Library stewards, publishers, and partners to combat book banning and ensure all voices are heard. Here are a few of our recent actions to push back against book bans and celebrate the freedom to read:

Power of Little Free Library Stewards

With more than 170,000 Little Free Library book-sharing boxes worldwide, there is a legion of stewards who take book access seriously — and many go above and beyond when protecting access to banned and challenged books. In a recent poll, 87% of Little Free Library stewards say they share banned books.

Little Free Library Mobile App

In our mobile app, free for download here, Little Free Library stewards can now indicate that they share banned books in their libraries. More than 1,000 stewards are using this feature.

The Unbanned Book Club

When they ban books in schools, we un-ban them in the community. We recently teamed up with Venables Bell + Partners to launch The Unbanned Book Club, an initiative providing communities in Duval County, Florida, access to banned and challenged books. New specially branded Little Free Libraries were placed locally, filled with banned books provided by HarperCollins and Penguin Random House, and stewarded by Florida nonprofit 904WARD. This project has earned multiple awards, including an Anthem Award and a Shorty Award.

A steward promotes reading banned books at their Little Free Library and indicates the reasons particular books have been banned.

Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week is one of our favorite weeks of the year, because it allows us to show our support for books that have been banned or challenged. For Banned Books Week 2023, we’re thrilled to partner with HarperCollins Children’s Publishing, the Banned Books Week Coalition, and the American Library Association to create awareness for this issue and make banned books more easily accessible. See how we’re celebrating in 2023 and how we participated in 2022.

The Banned Wagon

In partnership with Little Free Library, Freedom to Read Foundation, PEN America, and local bookstores, Penguin Random House is road-tripping through the South handing out free copies of banned books to people in affected communities who need and want them most. Learn more about the tour, and see which Little Free Libraries are on the route!

Little Free(dom) Library

To commemorate Black History Month in February 2024, Visit Philadelphia launched Little Free(dom) Library, an initiative encouraging visitors and residents to explore Black history and narratives. In partnership with us, Visit Philadelphia’s Little Free(dom) Library activation features 13 Little Free Libraries that will house banned books by Black authors.

Little Free Libraries for Teachers

This year, we were thrilled to partner with the National Education Association (NEA) to gift 500 Little Free Library book-sharing boxes filled with banned books to educators at NEA’s Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly in Orlando, Florida. “These Little Free Libraries serve as a powerful reminder that literacy and access to books are crucial for fostering strong, vibrant communities in Florida and beyond,” said Princess Moss, Vice President of NEA.  

Read in Color

Our Read in Color program provides Little Free Library book-sharing boxes and thousands of diverse books to community partners across the country. To date, we have granted more than 200 libraries and nearly 50,000 multicultural and inclusive books. Our recommended reading list includes titles from BIPOC and LGBTQ+ authors, and many of these books are regularly banned or challenged.

Little Free Library staff members attended the unveiling of the governor’s Little Free Library at the Minnesota State Capitol.

Banned Books at the Capitol

As a Minnesota nonprofit organization, we were delighted to learn that Governor Tim Walz wanted to establish a Little Free Library in the state capitol building to share banned books. We attended the launch event and spoke at the press conference announcing the new banned-books library.

LFL in the News

Media outlets including NPR have featured Little Free Library as an expert source on how readers are using our network to get around book bans in stories like Plot twist: Activists skirt book bans with guerrilla giveaways and pop-up libraries. Sadly we have also been in the spotlight when individuals visit Little Free Libraries to remove books they find unacceptable, such as in this piece from Newsweek. But we are heartened when we read stories of Little Free Library stewards sharing banned books in their libraries.

Reading is a right. Let’s work together to protect the freedom to read! Learn how you can get involved here.

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