What is Banned Books Week?
Banned Books Week is a celebration of your freedom to read by libraries. It also aims to bring awareness of the dangers of censorship and book banning.
A Book Challenge is a request for a book to be removed from a library or request for it to be placed in a new location.
A Book Ban is the forcible removal of individual books or topics to prevent people from accessing information.
Who Challenges Books to be Banned & Why?
The majority of book challenges begin in school libraries, but 37% take place in public libraries. Most of the time these challenges come from parents requesting materials be removed because of their family’s beliefs or individual values. Oftentimes these challenges can also come from library users who do not want others to have access to materials they find offensive.
Some of the most well-known classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Beloved, and The Awakening are among those that have been banned before. More frequently today books target contemporary stories which you can see below. Reasoning varies for why books are banned. Some people may want a book removed because they believe certain books go against their religion, feature BIPOC characters, teach critical race theory, have LGBTQ characters, talk about gender and sexuality, or have violence depicted. They believe the public should be barred from accessing these stories and information.
Why is Freedom from Censorship important?
It is a library’s responsibility to provide materials on a variety of subjects and by many different individuals. Information, books, and other items should not be limited because libraries are for everyone, and they house books for everyone in the community. Although different people have different reading interests and information needs, one opinion is not held above another.
What can you do to support your Freedom to Read?
Read Banned Books!
Check out books that have been challenged across the country this year. Oftentimes these books have important stories to share and may open windows to new perspectives and ideas.
Support your Local Libraries
Become a library card holder, join a library board or library friends volunteer group.
Support School Libraries
School librarians curate their collection to the age group of the students that they serve. That said, students may be experiencing radically different home situations from one another. Removing access to materials thought too mature can isolate these students and prevent them from getting help with anxiety, depression, abuse, and neglect. Show your support of our freedom to read at school board meetings, especially if other parents request removal of materials. You can even join a school board!
Speak Up About Censorship
If you see censorship challenges, talk about it and show your support for our freedom to read.
Encourage Others to Read Banned Books!
Suggest books that have been recently challenged to your book club or bookish friends.
Books you can read to support your Freedom to Read
2021’s Most Banned/Challenged Books
*Maia Kobabe uses Spivak pronouns (ey/em/eir).
Gender Queer, a graphic novel memoire by Maia Kobabe, explores eir life growing up as a gender queer kid and eir relationship with eir gender and sexuality. This book is a great quick read for transgender, nonbinary, and gender queer teens and young adults as well as allies wanting to learn more about transgender people and the gender diverse community. Kobabe also illustrated this book, and it won an Alex Award from the American Library Association in 2020.
Lawn Boy tells the story of a young Chicano man, Mike Muñoz, working for a landscaping crew cutting grass but all the while wanting to do something different than menial work. Despite being well-read and wanting to be ambitious, Mike struggles to make progress toward his American Dream. Through this episodic novel, he takes a journey of self-discovery in which Mike learns how to make space for happiness in a less than ideal world.
This series of personal essays detail George M. Johnson’s life growing up on the East Coast as a queer Black boy as he experiences toxic masculinity, bullying, first relationships, family life, boundaries, and gender identity. The sincerity and candidacy of Johnson’s writing will appeal to many young adults and adults in the LGBTQ+ community and teen and adult allies looking to strengthen their ability to protect marginalized folks.
In 1930’s East Texas, crossing a segregation line when you are Black or Latinx could mean a death sentence. In this town, an interracial relationship blossoms between a Black boy and Mexican-American girl. Set against the backdrop of the most deadly disaster an American school has ever seen, the book explores extreme racial tension, physical, sexual, and emotional violence, passing privilege, exploitation of women and children, and the threat of white supremacy.