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Utahns gather to Read-In protest against banning books at the Capitol

Posted at 9:09 PM, Jan 25, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — In 2022, Utah’s legislature passed a law banning sensitive materials in schools. Since then, school districts have been removing books from their libraries’ shelves, from classics like ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,' to new reads like ‘Out of Darkness.'

“These are the kinds of books that people say, ‘This book saved my life,'" said Peter Bromberg, Associate Director of EveryLibrary.

Let Utah Read, a coalition of educators, librarians and parents, held a read-in in the State Capitol’s rotunda Wednesday afternoon.

“In America, I think it's core to our democracy that we think, and we have the freedom to think and to read as we choose," said Bromberg.

The books people held in their hands were those that have been banned in Utah school districts.

“What's concerning is a lot of the banned books are related to marginalized groups," said Marissa Bischoff, President of the Utah Library Association. "LGBTQ issues, if they're in the books, those are more likely to be banned, and about BIPOC populations too.”

A few others showed up to try to make their voices heard on why some books should be banned, like Brooke Stephens, the founder of ratedbooks.org.

“We tried to give out flyers showing what was in the books that they're displaying," she said. "They took those flyers and wouldn't let people see what this is actually about.”

The books parents like Stephens want off the shelves have paragraphs and pictures that aren’t appropriate for minors, she said.

"Things that are obscene sexually explicit, that's not something for a school to decide to give to children," said Stephens. "That's for parents to decide.”

Bromberg believes the scenes from these books are being taken out of context and actually help young readers understand their identities and process trauma.

“That's not promoting the idea of sexual assault, right?" He said. "If anything, it's helping people who have either experienced that, or may be in danger of, of understanding the warning signs and understanding if it has happened to you, that it's not your fault.”

Let Utah Read wants Utahns to speak out against banning books now before legislators start considering laws that they say could lead to arresting librarians and teachers for protecting banned books.