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Central York School District book ban inspires banned book giveaway

A free book giveaway was held in York County’s Cousler Park on Sept. 29 in response to the now-reversed book ban in Central York School District.

YORK, Pa. — A free book giveaway was held in York County’s Cousler Park Sept. 29 in recognition of Banned Books Week, as well a response to the now-reversed book ban in the Central York School District.

Central York had banned teachers from using a list of materials—books, articles and films—that focused on issues like diversity and racism. Most of the materials were written or created by people of color.

Following widespread criticism, national media attention and multiple protests, the Central York School Board voted Sept. 20 to temporarily lift the ban.

The protests, however, drew increased attention to the more than 270 pieces on the banned list.

Hannah Shipley, a childcare worker who lives in West York, attended two protests. She then published a TikTok video criticizing the ban, which quickly racked up more than 34,000 views.

Shipley then created an Amazon wish list for all the banned books, and the donations began pouring in. Thousands of books have arrived from at least 30 states, she said.

Shipley decided to hold a book giveaway with 4,500 donated books. The plan was to distribute any remaining books to Little Free Libraries throughout the area.

“I mean 4,000 books is nothing to laugh at. The fact that we were able to not only hit the community, but also support those marginalized authors is really awesome,” Shipley said.

Community members began snatching up the books an hour before the event officially began at 5 p.m.

“I remember this book as a young child,” Central York parent Phalon Mallory said, holding up picture book “Amazing Grace” by Mary Hoffman. “It resonated with me, probably because I saw myself in this little girl.”

“It's just unreal which ones are banned. But there are so many great books that children can really learn from, they can identify with and then they can also learn about their classmates,” said York Suburban parent Adriel Resh.

The book distribution also fell in the middle of Banned Books Week, which celebrates free and open access to education. Four of the books that were on Central York’s banned book list and available at the giveaway are among the top 10 banned books in America in 2021.

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