1,597. That’s the number of books either challenged or banned in the United States alone in 2021, according to the American Library Association.

Many of the books were taken off the shelves in schools and libraries and shared similar themes, being written by LGBTQIA+ and African-American authors. But not everyone agrees that books should be censored, as people with the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa say banning books violates the Constitution.

“It’s clear that the majority of books that are being censored or challenged are books by LGBTQ authors or by black authors, sometimes because of their content, sometimes just because of the themes they raise in the books,” said Mark Stringer, executive director for ACLU Iowa. “That’s a problem, particularly when the censoring is coming from public institutions like governments, public schools, public libraries. They have an obligation under the First Amendment to make access to reading materials freely available.”

For those reasons, the ACLU of Iowa is continuing to support a nationwide event called ‘Banned Books Week,’ where challenged and banned books are read aloud coast to coast. Stringer says it’s a chance to celebrate the freedom to read, but if you don’t like it, you don’t have to participate.

“A person can decide not to read a book and a person can decide that they don’t want their children reading a particular book, but they can’t ban books for a whole town or a whole community,” Stringer said.

One local organization celebrating Banned Books Week is the Midwest Writing Center. They’re hosting an event for local writers, educators, and others to read their favorite banned books. It’ll be at the Rock Island Public Library this Wednesday at 6 p.m., 401 19th St.