Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville says someone hides their books featuring people of color

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (WLS) -- Employees at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville have been keeping a closer eye on their store shelves since a few weeks ago, when they noticed something was not right.

"They have kind of put things together and realized there was a pattern," Anderson's Bookshop Director of Events and Marketing Ginny Wehrli-Hemmeter said.

They found that books featuring people of color were being turned around or hidden behind other books. One time, they caught someone in the act.

"We found over 45 books that were turned around or covered," Anderson's Children Manager Carolyn Roys said. "We found more later that we missed the first time."

Wehrli-Hemmeter said they've made Naperville police aware of these occurrences.

At Anderson's, celebrating diversity is a priority. They have had signs up for years to make sure shoppers know it.

"To be clear, this is not a new initiative for us. It is something that we have always done," Wehrli-Hemmeter said. "But we feel like the current national situation has brought it to the forefront."

Across the country, there are heated debates taking place over what children should or should not be reading.

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American Library Association Executive Director Tracie Hall said books are vital to preparing students for life academically and socially. When books are censored, Hall said young children miss out on learning from diverse perspectives.

"Representation is really meaningful. We want to make sure that children, no matter what their background, have an opportunity to see themselves as a protagonist," Hall said. "We (also) know that it's very important for people who may not necessarily identify with a protagonist to see those same things so that they can expand their worldview."

Hall said the ALA has found increasing rates of censorship of books. According to the ALA, 607 books, films and newspapers were affected by censorship attempts in 2019, a 14 percent increase from the previous year.

We Need Diverse Books Development Manager Kaitlyn Sage Patterson said this censorship can come in the form of book bans, but it can also come through in ways she describes as soft censorship, like what's happening at Anderson's.

"It is so much more difficult to combat than the larger problem of book bans that we're seeing across this country," Patterson said.

Roys, who is a retired librarian, said now there are far more books available with stories of people from all backgrounds.

"When a kid sees themselves on a book [and says] 'that's me,' that is so exciting and so heartwarming," Roys said. "That's why we are here."

That will remain the focus at Anderson's despite efforts to stop their showcase of diversity.

"It is obviously something that we are not ok with," Wehrli-Hemmeter said. "We want our bookstore to be reflective of all of our communities and we have worked really hard to do so."
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