Five Schools in Battleground States will Receive $5,000 in Diverse Titles
Book bans surge to historic highs, grants will provide emergency assistance to students and libraries
August 15, 2023 — Bethesda, Maryland
Today We Need Diverse Books, a nonprofit striving to diversify the publishing industry from creation to classroom, announced the five winners of the inaugural round of the Books Save Lives Grant. These five schools, each located in battleground states where pervasive book bans are quickly expanding, will receive up to $5,000 in diverse titles. The funds will purchase more than 250 quality, diverse titles, rushing these books to schools to immediately fight back against discriminatory bans barring students from life-affirming texts.
Book challenges doubled in 2022—reaching the highest rate ever—according to the American Library Association, disproportionately targeting diverse titles including those by and about LGBTQIA+ people, Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color. Each challenge often aims to ban multiple—sometimes hundreds—of titles. These challenges have restricted reading opportunities for more than 4 million children nationwide, denying students access to identity-affirming stories and books providing diverse perspectives.
Selected schools are located in states with soaring numbers of book bans. Recent restrictive laws now require extensive and time-consuming vetting of new titles, a process previously streamlined, efficient, and focused on providing students with diverse titles that promote literacy, build empathy, and reduce racial bias. The Books Save Lives grant will supply diverse titles specifically requested by winning educators, circumventing the arduous review process to ensure the books go where they are most needed—directly into the hands of students.
Grants will be awarded to:
|Ridgeview High School||Orange Park, Florida|
|Emerald Cove Middle School||Wellington, Florida|
|Palm Beach School District||Palm Beach County, Florida|
|Fort Worth Independent School District||Fort Worth, Texas|
|Brandywine Middle/High School||Niles, Michigan|
“Stakeholders in Brandywine overwhelmingly do not support the removal of books from any of our libraries,” said Abilyn Janke, a history teacher at Brandywine High School in Michigan. “The process, books in question, and reasoning behind their potential removal is not supported throughout our community and we feel it’s an extreme overreach by the board. We worry for our students and we worry about the long-term repercussions of book removal.”
“The simple act of reading the right book at the right time can change a reader’s outlook, perspective, and even their future,” said Amy Yuzenas, Media Specialist at Emerald Cove Middle School. “The Books Save Lives program is the perfect answer to what our students need in these turbulent times. This grant will allow our students to grow not just intellectually, but also emotionally and socially.”
“It’s imperative that students across the United States, no matter where they live, have access to diverse, life-affirming titles. Book bans and challenges have created a critical shortage of diverse texts, and we are responding to this emergency with immediate action. Students will be able to read books they can see themselves in this school year because we believe in fighting these bans head on,” said Caroline Richmond, WNDB Executive Director. “These grantees care deeply about their communities, and with this program we are honored to provide books that will encourage literacy and understanding.”
WNDB created the Books Save Lives program specifically to address these bans. Books Saves Lives is a three-pronged approach to providing diverse books, educator resources, and author support all where it is needed most.
Grantees can choose from a list of nearly 500 titles, including: Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi and Ashley Lukashevsky (illustrator), We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade (illustrator), Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro, Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes, Omar Rising by Aisha Saeed, Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir, and Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas.
We Need Diverse Books is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that runs twelve exciting initiatives united under one goal—to create a world where everyone can find themselves in the pages of a book. Established in 2014, WNDB strives to support and amplify diverse literature by mentoring marginalized creators, providing resources to diverse publishing professionals, and donating diverse books to schools and libraries nationwide. Learn more at diversebooks.org.