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Barack and Michelle Obama Thank Librarians for Protecting the Freedom to Read

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Former President Barack Obama is known for being a reader, releasing highly anticipated annual lists of his favorite books of the year. Today, he posted a letter thanking librarians for defending the freedom to read and inviting citizens to join the fight against book bans. The letter begins,

“In any democracy, the free exchange of ideas is an important part of making sure that citizens are informed, engaged and feel like their perspectives matter.

It’s so important, in fact, that here in America, the First Amendment of our Constitution states that freedom begins with our capacity to share and access ideas — even, and maybe especially, the ones we disagree with.

More often than not, someone decides to write those ideas down in a book.”

He goes on to mention writers who have shaped the person he is and how he views the world, including Mark Twain and Toni Morrison.

Today, some of the books that shaped my life — and the lives of so many others — are being challenged by people who disagree with certain ideas or perspectives. It’s no coincidence that these “banned books” are often written by or feature people of color, indigenous people, and members of the LGBTQ+ community — though there have also been unfortunate instances in which books by conservative authors or books containing “triggering” words or scenes have been targets for removal. Either way, the impulse seems to be to silence, rather than engage, rebut, learn from or seek to understand views that don’t fit our own.

He and Michelle thank librarians for fighting on the “front lines” of the fight surrounding the freedom to read and includes a link to the American Library Association’s Unite Against Book Bans campaign to support librarians and defend the freedom to read.

You can find more resources on fighting book bans in Book Riot’s Anti-Censorship Tool Kit, our book How To Fight Book Bans and Censorship, and our newsletter Literary Activism.

You can read Barack Obama’s whole letter on Medium.

Find more news and stories of interest from the book world in Breaking in Books.