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Nampa School Board book ban inspires free giveaway

Banned books 2.jpg
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
On Wednesday, Rediscovered Books handed out more than 1,000 free copies of books recently banned by the Nampa School District.

More than 100 kids, parents and teachers alike braved the threat of rain Wednesday in Nampa to get their hands on books recently banned by the city’s public school district.

Nampa English teacher Caitlin McCarrol said she noticed many of the banned books included LGBTQ characters.

“It felt like almost a targeted attack on that community, which already feels attacked a lot anyway,” McCarrol said.

Michelle Sprague teaches 7th grade science in Nampa and keeps her own library in her classroom that her students can use.

Sprague said she was heartbroken that the list included “The Prince and the Dressmaker.” It’s a graphic novel for young adults about a cross-dressing prince that Sprague says meant a lot to her students this year.

“The acceptance and love and friendship of it is just beautiful,” she said, noting she had to pull about five books from her classroom library after the board’s decision.

2021 was a record-breaking year in the U.S.

According to the American Library Association, 729 challenges were filed at public and school libraries to ban nearly 1,600 books. In 2019, the ALA recorded 377 challenges to 566 books.

Last month, school board members in Nampa joined them, banning 23 titles “forever” on a split vote over concerns they were “pornographic.”

Vice Chair Tracey Pearson said the board needed to act quickly even though many of the books were already under review by the district.

“I think it’s too long of a process to have lifetime trauma to a child that does not need to be maybe experimenting with something that they’ve read,” Pearson said at the time.

Banned books 3.jpg
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
On Wednesday, Rediscovered Books handed out more than 1,000 free copies of books recently banned by the Nampa School District.

Some of the titles have been challenged for decades, like Toni Morrison’s debut novel, “The Bluest Eye.”

But they also include “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison – a book the district never had, but one that’s been a recent target of conservative groups.

Laura DeLaney, one of the co-owners of a local shop, Rediscovered Books, helped organize Wednesday’s event.

DeLaney said she and her husband, Bruce, immediately began planning the giveaway the day after the board’s decision.

“It was exciting, but also so necessary in a way that I wish it hadn’t been,” she said.

DeLaney was infuriated by the book ban, which included several titles her store has recommended for years.

While she admits that some of them do include vivid descriptions of sex and drug abuse, those are real issues that people deal with in everyday life.

“This is about seeing the richness and complexity of humanity and who are we but the ones to educate our students – especially those in high school – how to navigate our world and understand it to the best of our ability,” DeLaney said.

Rediscovered Books banned book giveaway
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
More than 100 kids, parents and teachers lined around the block in Nampa Wednesday to get their hands on books recently banned by the city’s public school district.

Recent accusations of controversial books tainting the minds of Idaho students have been ongoing since last summer.

Earlier this year, Idaho House Republicans passed a bill making it a crime for librarians to lend any materials deemed “harmful” to minors.

“I would rather my six-year-old grandson start smoking cigarettes tomorrow than get a view of this stuff one time at the public library or anywhere else,” said Nampa Republican Rep. Bruce Skaug.

Supporters of the bill shared a quote “super-secret folder” of excerpts and images they say were available in Idaho libraries. Many of the examples obtained by the Idaho Press discussed LGBTQ sexuality and gender identity.

But, as House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) said, the bill never defined what would constitute “harmful” materials.

“How in the world is any librarian facing potential criminal sanctions going to know? They absolutely cannot, and as a result, this is absolutely unconstitutionally vague and ambiguous,” Rubel said.

The bill eventually died in the Idaho Senate.

But far-right lawmakers in the House ultimately cut $3.5 million from the state commission for libraries’ budget, even though it doesn’t choose which books go on shelves.

DeLaney said she’s tired of these debates.

“I’m not going to second guess my lawyer who gives me advice if I’m in a legal issue or working on a lease agreement for my business,” she said.

“I want us to stop second guessing our educators on what is and is not appropriate to teach in a school.”

Nampa school board members are drafting a new policy to challenge books in the district, which they hope to be in place by the fall semester.

In the meantime, DeLaney said they’ll give away more than 1,300 copies of these banned books just in time to create an unofficial summer reading list.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!