Texas Library Offers Summer ‘Banned’ Camp Where Students Read Restricted Books

The Austin Public Library has created a summer program called Banned Camp for students of all ages to read and learn about restricted books.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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Banned camp

Books serve as a symbol of freedom and free speech. Subjective or completely factual, they immerse readers into a different world of perspectives. But with a growing culture war weaving its way into America’s education system, contentious books are being restricted in school libraries at levels never seen before. Not everyone agrees with this, and many bookstores and libraries are pushing back. Now, a Texas library is offering a curious take on summer program offerings, touting a program called Banned Camp, where students can engross themselves in commonly restricted school books.

Texas schools have seen their fair share of challenged books this past school year. In fact, a report from CNN says that the Lone Star state is leading the way with the most restricted books in the nation, banning more than 713 titles from school shelves across 16 different districts. Library systems overall are unhappy with this finding. And now, the Austin Public Library is making their viewpoint loud and clear, as they offer a new summer program known wittily as Banned Camp.

The first year in existence, the summer program is a joint effort with the Austin Library and BookPeople, an independent book store that operates in the city. With extensive reach, there are events not only catered for children and teens but adults wishing to read more grown-up suited challenged books as well. Other than getting the opportunity to look inside a book that students may no longer be able to access in their schools,  Banned Camp events will offer perspectives on these books, and give participants the chance to view something from a different side. 

Speaking with KVUE News, Kathleen Houlihan, who helped create the Banned Camp program noted that the library felt a need to create the summer camp as a means to show support to the LGBTQ+ community, who accounts for a hefty portion of American citizens today. The majority of books that are being brought to school boards by parents wishing to see them removed from schools were rooted in LGBTQ+ topics. Oftentimes, the rhetoric centers around a sense of inappropriate content that may at some point discuss sex. However, LGBTQ+ activists fear this is a scapegoat as to why they are targeting the queer community. After all, plenty of novels long taught by school teachers have discussed rape and sexual acts at some point in the novels. 

Throughout the plethora of events taking place over the weeks that the Austin Banned Camp will occur, various authors of challenged books will be in attendance to discuss their work with camp goers. Storytime for all ages will be held, and the event will even highlight local high school students that have been fighting back against schools’ decisions to restrict access to certain books.

Banned Camp

Librarians and all of those opposed to book banning fear that these issues aren’t necessarily about the books themselves, but what they represent. The hope with initiatives like Banned Camp is that it will encourage more individuals to physically read the books, and judge it for themselves. Overall, activities pushing to stop these restrictions simply want to allow students to discover and decide on their own, over a fear that bias is leading the mission to reject them.