In Fredericksburg, a celebration of books amid attempts to ban some of them from city schools

FREDERICKSBURG — Sitting in the middle of a quilt spread on the floor Saturday morning, R. Joseph Rodríguez read the last lines of the children’s book “Corduroy,” about a teddy bear in a store and its soon-to-be new companion.

“‘You must be a friend,’ said Corduroy, ‘I’ve always wanted a friend.’ ‘Me too,’ said Lisa, and gave him a biiiiiiiig“, Rodríguez extended the word and looked at the dozen children sitting around him, raising their arms to offer them a clue.

“Embrace!” cried the children.

The moment came at a celebration of books Saturday held in response to the Central Texas School District’s removal of 10 books from school library shelves this year and the decision to send another quarantine to a committee for a Quick review, amid a blitz of such challenges across the state and nation to books that primarily explore LGBTQ and racial topics.

The American Library Association has recorded a record number of such challenges, 729 of them, across the country since the nonprofit began compiling a list of challenges 20 years ago. While Houston-area districts have mostly avoided mass book protests, the frenzy has hit some parts of Texas, like McKinney ISD in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where two parents protested nearly 300 pounds earlier this year.

At Fredericksburg’s Münch Food Park, Saturday’s party included more readings, a performance by Los Texmaniacs, which in 2010 won a Grammy for Best Tejano Album, and live interviews conducted by Tony Diaz, the Houston Librotraficante who, ten years ago helped start a movement against the Arizona ban. Chicano Studies and last month drove a caravan to Austin to once again protest censorship attempts.

Christine Granados, a local author and mother whose children had read many challenged books, said the celebration’s origins go back to challenged books in local schools. Fredericksburg ISD teaches about 3,100 children, about half of whom are Hispanic.

A few weeks ago, she and others were outraged that books had already been taken down without review for being allegedly vulgar in response to what seemed, to parents at least, to be the concerns of a vocal minority of residents.

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“We were so mad about it all,” Granados explained during the Los Texmaniacs performance, “that we decided we shouldn’t be mad — we should celebrate.”

A few months into the school year, Dane Carter, an 18-year-old senior who plans to study political science at the University of Oklahoma, had read three or four books in his advanced-level literature class. when the apparent tumult reached the city.

The next book the class was to read was the memoir “The Glass Castle.”

His teacher had already ordered some 150 copies by the time he entered the suppressed book ranks.

Since then, Carter says, the books have sat on a shelf, unread.

“I don’t think there was a problem before,” Carter said. “We read these books in class and they were uncomfortable to read, but I felt like we had learned real-life examples of what can happen in the world through them – and the experiences of other people in the world.”

In a way, a similar recognition of the power of learning through words led Rodríguez to read in front of children earlier today.

Growing up in the East End of Houston in the 1980s, Rodríguez recounted how a librarian at Houston ISD’s Franklin Elementary School would sit on a mat with students and read to them.

“She would stage them, she would help us turn the page,” remembers Rodríguez, author and educator. “A storyteller came to life with stories, with language, with rhythm, with music – a cadence for the language arts that is not always captured in a solitary act when reading.”

He therefore modeled his Saturday reading on the “great storyteller” of his youth.

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