Readers from across the United States and around the world are demonstrating their support for free speech by participating in a virtual read-out of banned and challenged books that will culminate during the 30th annual Banned Books Week (Sept. 24-Oct. 1), the only national celebration of the freedom to read. Individuals, libraries and bookstores are uploading videos to a special channel on YouTube, submitting either a reading of up to two minutes or a description of a local book challenge of up to three minutes.

The virtual read-out is the centerpiece of an expanded Banned Books Week, which focuses attention on the censorship of books in schools and libraries. The American Library Association reported 348 challenges and bans in 2010. The most challenged book was And Tango Makes Three, an award-winning children’s picture book, based on an actual incident, that tells the story of two male penguins who hatch an abandoned egg and parent the chick. The book has been on the list of most frequently challenged books for five years. Other titles frequently challenged last year include Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and books in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. ALA publishes a Top Ten Banned Books list annually.

The authors of challenged books are also participating in the read-out. Videos of frequently censored authors Judy Blume and Lauren Myracle have recently been posted. Other highly acclaimed and/or frequently challenged authors, including Chris Crutcher, Paolo Bacigalupi, Sarah Dessen, William Joyce, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Jay Asher, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, have also recorded videos that will be posted in coming days. Check the Banned Books Week YouTube Channel daily for new videos.

To support an expanded Banned Books Week, the sponsors have launched a redesigned website, In addition to providing information about the virtual read-out, it includes an interactive map that shows the location of book challenges in recent years as well as a listing of featured events and a state-by-state listing of libraries, bookstores and other groups that are participating in Banned Books Week.