Defending the Freedom to Read

Karen, Coordinator of Young Adult Services

Recently one of our StoryTeen interns, Adelaide, gave testimony to the New York City Council about fighting book bans.

Good afternoon. Thank you to the Members of the New York City Council for the opportunity to speak today.

My name is Adelaide Sendlenski. I’m a sophomore in high school at Saint Ann’s and a participant in Brooklyn Public Library’s StoryTeen program. Through StoryTeen, I have had the opportunity to learn how important early childhood literacy is--the foundations laid from birth to 3 years impact a child’s learning for their entire life--and through StoryTeen I’ve had the opportunity to witness firsthand how BPL’s children’s programs foster literacy and a love of learning.  Being part of this program inspires me because I love to read.  That’s why I am here today. Because I LOVE to read.

I relish having the freedom to read books that take me far and wide through worlds of endless possibility, where I may wear the cloak of another’s culture, religion, race, challenges and triumphs. At the end of every book, I am inevitably a different person. A  better one. My heart is larger and my mind is sharper. I am better equipped to confront my own fears and challenges, too.  

And being a teen is fraught with numerous challenges - the feeling of being different, unworthy or just plain uninvited  is more prevalent now than ever thanks to social media. For me, the usual teen challenges were compounded by my parents separating last year. It was the hardest year of my life.  Only now, upon reflection, do I realize that reading single-handedly got me through that year. I never felt alone because I always had another world between my palms.  Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give and  Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale are just two of the 90 books that kept me company through that time,  each a dependable reminder of endless possibility and human connection.    

To my surprise, many of the books that saved me that year are on banned lists.  As I read through lists of hundreds of banned books, I feel mixed emotions, ranging from shock and dismay to outrage. But ultimately, I’m left with fear. Fear that one person or a small group of people have the power to deprive us of all of the knowledge and experience contained on the pages of any book. The freedom to read is under attack in this country.  


This blog post reflects the opinions of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of Brooklyn Public Library.


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