SAN LORENZO, Calif. (KRON) — As Reading Rainbow would say, “Take a look, it’s in a book!” The Alameda County Board of Supervisors took the message a step further on Tuesday by encouraging everyone to read not just any book, but a banned book.

Supervisors voted to proclaim September 18-24 “Banned Books Week,” celebrating the freedom to read and access information.

“Every individual should have the right to make decisions about what they and their families read. Those decisions shouldn’t be made for them and imposed by others. Information is power,” said board of supervisors president Keith Carson.

The proclamation comes amid an unprecedented surge of book challenges in libraries and schools across the nation. According to the American Library Association, there were 1,597 books challenged in 2021 — the highest level of book ban attempts in more than two decades. Books about the experiences of LGBTQ+ and Black people were among the most frequently targeted. 

Alameda County’s libraries provide carefully curated collections to “meet the interests and needs of everyone in the community,” county supervisors wrote.     

Along with challenges to books, libraries have encountered opposition to children’s reading program. During Pride Month this past June, an incident occurred at the San Lorenzo Library during “Drag Queen Story Hour.” Preschool-aged children were listening to story hour when it was disrupted by members of Proud Boys, a far-right group.

Five Proud Boys members entered the Library and shouted homophobic and transphobic slurs at the event’s performer, Bay Area drag queen Panda Dulce, according to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

Dulce said on Instagram that the group shouted “tranny” and “pedophile.” The disruption “totally freaked out all of the kids,” Dulce said.

Alameda County librarian Cindy Chadwick said, “The horrible irony of it was they said over and over, ‘We’re here to protect the kids.’ And it was the kids they were terrifying. The kids were afraid of them, and the kids were there with their parents who had brought them to this event.”

Anti-LGBTQ+ campaigns also emerged over the summer urging parents to check out all books from Pride Month displays in order to prevent children from reading the books. Pamphlets denouncing LGBTQ identity were also found tucked inside books at libraries around Alameda County.

“The removal of books from libraries and schools … dictates which voices are heard and which voices are silenced. When people do not see themselves reflected in books, it sends a message that they do not matter or have a place in our society — that they are not valued,” Chadwick said. 

The American Library Association said the vast majority of book challenges it receives are made by small, but very vocal, groups.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors and Alameda County Library encourages everyone to read one of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2021. These books can be found in the library’s online catalog, or by visiting your local library.

ALA’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books:

  1. Gender Queerby Maia Kobabe
  2. Lawn Boyby Jonathan Evison
  3. All Boys Aren’t Blueby George M. Johnson
  4. Out of Darknessby Ashley Hope Perez
  5. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
  6. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indianby Sherman Alexie
  7. Me and Earl and the Dying Girlby Jesse Andrews
  8. The Bluest Eyeby Toni Morrison
  9. This Book is Gayby Juno Dawson
  10. Beyond Magentaby Susan Kuklin