Book Lovers Stage Read-In at State Capitol for ‘Let Utah Read’
Best-selling authors and Utah’s poet laureate joined professors, students, parents, and community leaders for a “read-in” at the Utah State Capitol on Wednesday for a Let Utah Read event fighting book bans in schools.
Organized by the Utah chapter of PEN America, in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union, Utah Library Association, and EveryLibrary, the read-in was followed by remarks from speakers including bestselling authors Erika L. Sánchez and Shannon Hale.
“Attempts to ban books about underrepresented kids sends them the message: You shouldn’t exist, your story doesn’t matter, and we don’t want our kids to empathize with you,” Hale said. “This is a dangerous message, and the consequences can be grave. More than ever, they need us to show them unequivocally: you matter, we love you, and we want you here. All of you.”
Hale added that when kids aren’t allowed to even talk about sex, “predators flourish,” and treating books as pornography prevents them from accessing “a gentle form of storytelling that offer context to complex problems and help readers examine them in quiet, slow, thoughtful ways.”
Since the passage of Utah’s HB 374 in 2022, book banning and book challenges increased dramatically across the state. The law prohibits “sensitive materials” in schools, and the state attorney general’s office directed school districts to remove books “that are categorically defined as pornography under state statute.” Since then, books have been removed from library shelves across the state, with as many as 205 challenges filed in Granite County alone.
These challenges and bans have focused primarily on LGBTQ+ and BIPOC-centered books and authors, reflecting trends found across the country by PEN America in its Banned in the USA report.
Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch, said it’s important to push back against these restrictions.
“This moment in history requires all of us to be unafraid and more committed than ever before to ensuring justice in education for all students. We must not be silent on the banning of books. The vast majority of these books were written by women or people of color or LGBTQ,” she said.
PEN America tracks book bans in schools across the country. Read more in our Banned in the USA report, read banned books, and if you discover a ban in your district, report it to us.