Books are magic. They teach, inspire, comfort, guide, and entertain us. They can challenge our worldview—transporting and connecting us to realities that aren’t always our own. They build us up, and sometimes, they can reveal our truest selves without judgment. They’re reliable, safe spaces, and great listeners. They help us place ourselves in the big, unknowable world.
In Texas, we’re seeing a dangerous turn toward book censorship and the silencing of diverse voices. By banning books that discuss human rights, sex education, include LGBTQIA+ people, or mention America’s strained racial history, Texas lawmakers are denying Texas children access to honest, accurate, and quality education. They’re also distorting the students’ experience of the world when they exclude books about real people and real societal discourse for political reasons. When students can’t see themselves represented, they’re denied access to truthful information, dooming our state to repeating the mistakes of the past.
This is why we launched our Teach the Truth campaign. Our movement to fight educational censorship is guided by our belief that the voices of our communities, not politicians, should drive education policies for all. In this continuing fight, we’re lucky that some advocates and community members organizing against censorship and book banning have shared their stories with us.
For these readers and activists, books are a sanctuary and so much more:
“My favorite book in elementary school was a book about a dog who felt unlovable. Through this little pug, I had never felt more seen in my life. I was so young but carried great burdens. I am so grateful for all of the books that helped me throughout my life. Some books helped me escape my reality, others gave me new perspectives, but all of them influenced me forever.” — Texas Activist & Lover of Books
“I did not come out publicly until my Sophomore year in college. I was in high school in Fort Worth Texas, where in the late 90s a teacher would be fired for being openly gay. There were no out queer kids that I knew, and very little acknowledgment of queerness at all except by evangelical Christian classmates who did not have a favorable view. I didn’t want to be queer—I wanted to have a family and kids and be accepted in the world. I had absolutely zero role models and knew no successful adults who were out. When I was 18, during my freshman year in college, I took an Anthropology course where we got to study several different cultures through reading, videos, and discussions. One book we read was called Families We Choose: Lesbians, Gays, Kinship by Kath Weston. The stories in this book were the first time I EVER realized that queer people could actually have families and kids. I remember filling with shock and tears and all kinds of emotions learning that I could actually live the life I imagined.” — Marti B., TFN Staff
“Out of the hundreds of books I’ve read during my time in elementary, middle, high school, and college, I still have with me Shug by Jenny Han, the first book I read by an Asian American author when I was 12 in 2008. For me, this book represented my entire life at 12 years old. Everything Shug (who was 12) went through—looking awkward, starting middle school, getting a crush for the first time—was me. What made this book special to me, though, was Jenny Han’s picture on the inside of the book jacket. For the first time in my life, one of the authors looked like me. Knowing that it was her writing the book made it even more special and made me feel seen. This book has followed me to three college dorms, three different cities, and four different houses in Austin. I keep Shug with me because it fills me with nostalgia now that I’m not 12 anymore, to remind me of what it was like being 12, and more importantly, to remind me of what I felt when I saw Jenny Han’s face on the inside of the book jacket.” — Sabrina S.
“The Autobiography of Malcolm X (as told by Alex Haley) truly flipped my world upside down. Coming from a white, privileged background and attending a school with much of the same population really kept me in a bubble in terms of my understanding of the world, especially in terms of history. This book shook me. It pushed my thinking in ways I didn’t know possible. Malcolm’s story was interesting, heartbreaking, challenging, and inspiring. But in hindsight, the biggest impact of this book for me is that it pushed me to continue learning. It led me to start questioning the things I was taught and opened windows of learning that I wish I had access to earlier in life. I am forever grateful for the impact this book had on me, and my hope is that others will be exposed to books that provide them with a similar experience.” — Meredith
Governor Abbott’s attempts to dictate the library of books available to our students aren’t just narrow-minded, they’re harmful. Texas children deserve the gift of finding themselves in different books because no one book is fully representative of every student and their unique experiences. This is why we need a diversity of voices in our classrooms, and why we will always insist that Texas public schools teach the truth.
If you want a Texas public education system that is truly representative of all Texans, where the voices of our communities, not politicians, drive our education policies—join our Teach the Truth Campaign today.