An idea recently popped into my head and I try not to ignore my ideas. When I have in the past, I’ve usually regretted it. So when I had the idea to create T-shirts and other products around the idea of “Share Books Not Hate” I didn’t ignore it. In fact, when I told some friends, one asked if I was starting a movement, and I thought, maybe…
My ideas usually come from needs I see in the world around me. My book ARROW, about a magically hidden rainforest in danger, came out of hearing trees on entire swaths of land being cleared for more gas stations around my neighborhood, even though keeping some of the mature trees would protect the earth and our environment. And when “Share Books Not Hate” popped into my brain, I knew exactly where it had come from: the rise of book bans that I’ve been reading about and helping to fight over the past few years and the rise in hate that I’ve been seeing all over social media and the news. If I could start a movement, a community around the idea of sharing books and not hate—if it could help—why not?
Book Bans: A Growing Problem
Book banning is big news right now, and although it’s been around for a while, it’s growing fast. A new report from the American Library Association shows that book ban attempts hit a record high in 2022—nearly double the previous record, which was set in 2021. For book lovers, that’s bad news. And for kids, it’s even worse, because these bans are aimed directly at keeping books out of their hands.
And you know what else is on the rise? Hate. You can see it on social media and in crimes. An FBI report showed that hate crimes are at the highest level in more than a decade. Racism, antisemitism, and hate crimes against LGBTQ people and minority ethnicities and religions are all growing.
You might think, “But book bans and hate crimes have nothing to do with each other. Parents challenge books because they have inappropriate material.” But let’s really look at the types of books that are being banned:
According to a study PEN America did of banned titles in 2021 and 2022:
- 41% had LGBTQ+ themes or characters
- 40% had characters of colors
- 22% had sexual content
- 21% dealt with race or racism
- 10% dealt with rights and activism
- 9% were biographical
- and 4% had religious minorities
See a pattern here? The books that are being banned are also about the parts of our society that are getting the most hate.
Reading Benefits Are Proven
And there’s a reason books are being targeted. Readers well know the benefits of reading, but science has proven it too. A number of studies have shown that reading fiction increases empathy and understanding.
For example, the HARRY POTTER books drew a parallel between prejudices in the magical world and those in our own. A 2014 study, showed that elementary and high school students in Italy and England showed less bias toward refugees, immigrants, and LGBTQ people after they read those stories.
Another study from that year showed that readers of the novel SAFFRON DREAMS, about a Muslim woman who experiences racist attacks in New York, were more empathic toward people of different races and ethnicities. BUT the shift only happened when they read the whole book, not when they read the book summary or a non-fiction book on similar topics.
This is the power of books.
Books build empathy. Empathy ends hate.
Sharing books is how we make the world a less hate-filled place.
Introducing Share Books Not Hate
So when the phrase “Share Books Not Hate” popped into my head, I knew I wanted to spread it. And I wanted to get as many readers as possible to spread it too. What better way than putting it on T-shirts and other fun products?
I shared the idea with my husband and he was on board. Then came more ideas:
- How we could reward librarians, the people who share books the most—and the people who are on the front lines of the fight over book bans. We’d get our customers to nominate librarians. Then every quarter, we’d treat a librarian with a gift card so they could get something for themselves.
- AND we wanted to support the sharing of books in a bigger way. So we planned to interview librarians, authors and teens fighting book bans. PLUS at the end of every year, we’d give a portion of profits from the sales of the merchandise to an organization that helps literacy by sharing reading and books.
I’m very excited about Share Books Not Hate and hope that it is, first and foremost, a way for readers to spread their love of sharing books. We’ve got designs for sharing all books, sharing different genres of books, and lots more coming out soon. But I’ll be honest that I also hope the shirts, bags and other items are embraced by readers as a way to encourage everyone around them to share books, not hate.
The more we share stories, the more we come together, as a community, a society, a world.
Want to spread some book sharing? Click here to check out the store.
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Want to nominate a librarian for a quarterly gift card? Fill out the form here.