“In 2021, there were 729 attempts to censor library resources, targeting 1,597 books.” In the first eight months of this year, the American Library Association (ALA) “documented 681 attempts to ban or restrict library resources, and 1,651 unique titles were targeted.”
Public officials and parent organizations have compiled lists of books they want off the shelves of school and public libraries. In the past, these groups targeted textbooks; today, the target are young adult books often featuring LGBTQ+ protagonists, Blacks, Indigenous people, or Persons of Color. As a result of these divisive campaigns, libraries across the country are closing.
Several communities have voted to defund public libraries, “putting a moratorium on library purchases.” School librarians have resigned after being “harassed and intimidated” by local boards and parent groups. The Brooklyn Public Library’s Books Unbanned program offers a unique solution, making e-books and audiobooks available to teens around the country for free.
What is Banned Books Week?
Banned Books Week is an annual awareness campaign celebrating the freedom to read. Launched by the American Library Association and Amnesty International in 1982, Banned Books Week brings together all who value free and open access to information, including librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers. The week is intended to draw attention to banned and challenged books. Many organizations hold in-person and online events during Banned Books Week that highlight the ramifications of book banning.
The top 10 challenged books in 2021 were:
- Gender Queerby Maia Kobabe
- Lawn Boyby Jonathan Evison
- All Boys Aren’t Blueby George M. Johnson
- Out of Darknessby Ashley Hope Perez
- The Hate U Giveby Angie Thomas
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indianby Sherman Alexie
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girlby Jesse Andrews
- The Bluest Eyeby Toni Morrison
- This Book is Gayby Juno Dawson
- Beyond Magentaby Susan Kuklin
Lists of Challenged and Banned Books over the past decade are available on the ALA website. PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans (July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022) is available via Google Docs.
Unite Against Book Bans
There are many ways to voice your opposition to censorship and book banning. Unite Against Book Bans offers suggestions that include a Toolkit with talking points and contact information for expressing your views to state and local officials and media.
Resources to help librarians, educators, and students understand the consequences of book bans include posters, handbooks, manuals, discussion guides, and censorship action kits. The last few resources on this webpage offer places for individuals and organizations to report censorship.
Events around the country advocate for the freedom to read in various ways, including virtual events. You can find a roundup of thought-provoking webinars during which you can learn how to fight for inclusive education and defend your right to read in this Banned Books Week calendar of events.