Book Fetish

Celebrate the Right to Read with Stickers (+ Action)

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Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

For several years now—and it is exhausting to even type that—I’ve been covering book banning news here at Book Riot. This began with periodic one-off stories, then evolved into a weekly short roundup of stories, and now, it’s an entire newsletter that hits inboxes several times per week. The work is exhausting and disheartening and frustrating, though it is also many times really encouraging. Watching people show up in their communities to rally behind the right to read in their public schools and public libraries is precisely all I could have hoped would come from sharing this otherwise awful news over and over again. People are making change, establishing their voices, and working to ensure that library access remains essential for every type of person in the community, young and old.

Early on in the process and, if I’m being frank even now, I found myself annoyed by how many people wanted to make a buck off what is a dangerous movement targeting the most vulnerable people in our society (queer people, people of color, and young people to be specific). So many cutesy little graphic tees and tote bags were suddenly available for sale with no clear insight as to how the money from those sales would actually help put an end to book banning. That’s capitalism, baby and it’s modeled around us day in and day out. See a problem? Find a solution to make a buck.

And yet, so many of the folks behind these creations are exactly who deserves to be making a little money from all of this. They’re library workers or educators, queer people or people of color, young people or people who are showing up over and over and over again to support the right to read. They don’t need to give away their profits because for many of them, it’s not much but it helps make ends meet in a world that continues to get more expensive and capitalize from their status.

It’s complicated further by the fact that one way you find your allies who support libraries is by being visible about where you stand on the issue.

This month we will celebrate National Library Week. We’ll also continue to see states putting targets on the backs of the most vulnerable people in society through legislation that ostensibly bans “naughty” books but that we know is really meant to eradicate entire communities of people. Perhaps no time is better than now to prepare to celebrate and to continue to find people who want to speak up with you. One easy way is, of course, through a little consumerism.

Find below a range of stickers that celebrate the freedom to read and that are explicitly against book bans. These are small tokens for making your beliefs clear, for encouraging people to ask questions of you when the see the sticker, and for finding your allies in this ongoing and manufactured “culture war.” Although I cannot vouch for every creator behind the stickers, I have done my best to find small artists or those who have some kind of connection to the pushback on book bans.

Show Your Support of The Right To Read With These Stickers

do you still want to challenge that library book sticker?

I do not condone violence, and neither does this particular sticker. Instead, it’s a reminder that the most maligned people—represented by the black cat here—are those in need of the most protection. It’s cute, it’s clever, and, well, makes a sharp point. $4.50.

every child has a right to read sticker

This sticker is especially good because this is a reminder that as cute as it might be to show off your face with a banned book you picked up as an adult, it’s not about the adults. It’s about the right of kids right now to read those books. $3.

colorful sticker reading "tell me a time in history when it was the good guys banning books."

Whenever you see this message pop up, inevitably, the book banners drag out tired and false accusations about how anti-censorship advocates are behind the banning of books like To Kill a Mockingbird. That’s not the case and needs to be pushed back on (here you go on how!). Those people refuse to see themselves where history has squarely put them. $4.

image of a sticker with a stack of books. Beside it is the phrase "read whatever the fuck you want - librarians."

The message here is great. But we also need to be crystal clear that, unfortunately, librarians are also sometimes active participants in curtailing the right to read. More often than not, it’s through quiet/silent censorship and not outright, flag-waving book banning like we see from those outside the profession. Librarians in this, for the right reason, DO want you to read whatever the fuck you want. $3+.

pink sticker that says "read banned books."

Sometimes simple is best. $3.

sticker with an open book and flowers coming out. it reads "prolibrary antifascist."

The definition of being pro-library is being anti-fascist. $4.

holographic stickers that read "read banned books, dismantle systems of oppression."

Being against book bans means you’ve got to do something to dismantle the systems of oppression allowing the spread of book bans. Remember that being “an activist” only means that you’re doing something active in your life to dismantle those systems—and yes, voting is activism, and it matters. $4.

Image of an open book with the words "read banned books" coming out looking like flames.

This read banned books sticker just looks cool. $4.50.

Image of a book with a rainbow behind it. On the book is the sentence "libraries are for everyone."

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Libraries are for *everyone*, not just those with the loudest voices, deepest pockets, or widest connections. There are plenty of books I find disgusting in the library, but it would be wrongheaded, not to mention deeply naive and ignorant, to believe there are not people in my community eager to pick up the latest book by whatever Fox commentator has one coming out. They have the right to read that book, even if I think it’s wrong—and if your rebuttal here is, “But what about books about how dangerous it is to be trans and/or how vaccines are harmful,” then may I remind you that one of the roles of libraries is to ensure the information available is accurate, not fabrication. Fox head’s book is an opinion tied to a person whose background we can easily ascertain. $3.

image of a black sticker with "lgbt books save lives" on the cover.

The punk aesthetic of this sticker is right on, just as the message itself. $4.

holographic sticker that reads "I do not co-parent with fascist Karens."

This sticker, more than even the stickers with well-intentioned messages like “ban bullets/guns/bigots, not books,” actually gets to the heart of what’s going on right now. You don’t end book bans by demanding more bans, even if there is a dire need for legislative reform on issues relating to violence and bigotry (which inevitably leads to said violence). While “Karen” has become such a useless catchall term for anyone someone may disagree with, in this context, it accurately depicts the types of people showing up to school board meetings and demanding books be banned since they “do not co-parent” with “government schools/libraries.” But said demands are, of course, co-parenting with said government entity. $4.50.

holographic sticker reading "small minds ban books."

To be perfectly clear, those minds are made small by following the marching orders of right-wing media/think tanks/social media. $7+.

fuck book banners sticker.

In the philosophical sense, not the physical. $4+.

colorful sticker that reads "stop book bans, protect libraries."

This particular sticker—the shape, colors, and font choice—reminds me so much of the spine label stickers on library books which themselves have become weapons in the war on the right to read. $4.

read banned books sticker in the style of an old neon sign.

There is no denying how attractive and interesting this particular read banned books sticker is. $4.

read banned books sticker in the style of Saved By The Bell's logo.

“It’s all right ’cause I’m saving the books” is how the theme song is really supposed to go. This one’s for ’90s lovers. $4.50.

A holographic sticker that is in the shape of a book. On the cover it says "imagine being afraid of books and drag queens."

It is not fear driving these folks, unfortunately. If only it were that simple. It’s hatred, but the message and style of this sticker is absolutely going to send a message. $4+.

image of a sticker that reads "freedom to read 2024."

The books are the tools used to reach a bigger end game. Freedom, period, is on the ballot this year. $4.50.

Perhaps the most chilling sticker in this round-up says everything without leaning into some of the common imagery surrounding book bans: burning the books isn’t the only danger. Empty shelves are. $5.

Once you’ve done some shopping, if you’re not already, sign up for Literary Activism for practical insights, tools, and news about book bans happening every day across the country.