Volunteers from the Rock Island Public Library and Midwest Writing Center will stand up for the freedom to read both in person and virtually at a special “read-out” on Thursday, Oct. 5 at the Rock Island Public Library Watts-Midtown Branch, 2715 30th Street.

The event starts at 5:30 p.m. with refreshments, and continues with live public readings from 6 to 7:30 p.m. of challenged or banned works. Attendees may come to read or just listen. The event also includes free drawings for Banned Books buttons and other items that celebrate the freedom to read, according to a library release.

This annual event is co-presented with the Midwest Writing Center and Rock Island Public Library in recognition of Banned Books Week, October 1-7, 2023, and features five-minute readings from books that have been challenged for their right to remain available to the public.

The theme for Banned Books Week 2023 is “Let Freedom Read.” Local volunteers will share passages from works that have faced censorship challenges, and what the freedom to read means to them.

The public may attend in person in the Watts-Midtown Branch auditorium, or follow along online via the Midwest Writing Center YouTube page HERE.

“The MWC will be co-hosting the Banned Books Reading with RIPL, and we’re very excited to collaborate to celebrate free expression and the written word,” said event moderator and MWC executive director Ryan Collins.

“Given the accelerating attacks against free expression seen in recent years, events like this have taken on an increased importance,” he said. “We will have a wide range of people from both sides of the river come together to demonstrate the importance of free expression as an indispensable tool and First Amendment right.”

Readers run the gamut from local librarians, educators and writers to college students and other fans of the written word.

In June, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed a bill making this the first state in the nation to outlaw book bans. The legislation came in the wake of a nationwide rise in extremists targeting literature, libraries, and books in an effort to censor the material students need to thrive in the classroom, according to the governor’s office. Targeted books cover a wide range of categories and predominantly consists of stories by and about people of color and the LGBTQ+ community.