It's that time of year: it's ALA's annual Banned Books Week. This year's event is themed "Books Unite Us, Censorship Divides Us" and is set to run from September 26 through October 2. And it comes at a time, ALA officials said this week, when LGBTQIA+ books and books that focus on racism and racial justice are being challenged for removal from library and school bookshelves in alarming numbers.
In 2020, the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) tracked 156 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services, affecting 273 books. The office also noted a growing focus on demands to remove books that addressed racism and racial justice or those that shared the stories of Black, Indigenous, or people of color.
That trend made national headlines this week when students in York, Pennsylvania, sucessully protested the banning of a trove of resources. According to the local York Daily Record, Central York High School Principal Ryan Caufman in August sent staff members a list of articles, videos, books, mainly focused on Black and Latino representation, that were banned from the school district. But on Monday, in the wake of growing opposition, led by the students, the school board voted unanimously to reverse the ban.
Each September, Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community: librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers to highlight support for the Freedom to read.
“Having the freedom to read, especially books that extend beyond our own experiences, expands our world and the ability to celebrate our differences,” said ALA President Patty Wong, in a statement. “Sharing stories that are important to us means sharing a part of ourselves which fosters understanding and inclusion. We should not take the freedom to read for granted and we encourage communities everywhere to stand up against censorship and read a challenged or banned book.”
Banned Books Weeks features a host of events, including an opportunity to highlight titles that appear on the ALA’s 2020 Top 10 Most Challenged Books.
For the third year in a row, George by Alex Gino was the No. 1 most challenged book of 2020, with critics frequently citing its LGBTQIA+ content. Among other titles on the 2020 list, which is compiled by the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, is Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin, which was challenged for a supposedly promoting "anti-police" views.
Meanwhile, bestselling author Jason Reynolds is the inaugural Banned Books Week 2021 Honorary Chair. Two of Reynolds' recent books, All American Boys (with Brendan Kiely) and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (with Ibram X. Kendi) were among the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020.
Among the events set for Banned Books Week, readers can join Reynolds for a live-streamed conversation on Sept. 28, from noon–1 p.m. CT on the Banned Books Week Facebook page.
Other celebration highlights include ALA’s annual Dear Banned Author program that invites readers to send tweets and letters to authors. ALA also will continue to host its Stand for the Banned Read-out, where participants submit videos of themselves reading from banned and challenged titles. Video submissions will appear on the Banned Books Week YouTube channel.
Additional information regarding Banned Books Week and celebrations as well as promotional tools are available on the ALA's Banned Books home page, or follow Banned Books Week on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram to get the latest updates.