Banned Books Week 2021

Censorship Divides Us Books Unite Us Banned Books Week and hands holding a book

It’s Banned Books Week! Banned Books Week is an annual event organized by the American Library Association (ALA) and other organizations to celebrate the freedom to read.

This week brings awareness to the work done by librarians, teachers, and other advocates to stop the censorship of books and encourages everyone to participate in events that promote freedom of expression. This year’s Banned Books Week theme is “Books Unite Us, Censorship Divides Us.” Author Jason Reynolds is the honorary chair of Banned Books Week; you can find out more about events and lectures he is hosting on the Banned Books Week website.

You can also share why the freedom to read matters to you by using #BannedBooksWeek on social media or following @BannedBooksWeek on Twitter!

Why do books get banned?

Books get banned for a wide variety of reasons. Usually, a concerned community member (a “challenger”) will suggest that a book or other resource be removed from library circulation, or be taken down from a public display. Sometimes, librarians or other figures of authority act as challengers, and refuse to buy or promote books and materials on controversial topics. All kinds of books get banned, too—including children’s books, young adult novels, nonfiction books, and adult literary fiction.

Some of the most common reasons books get challenged or banned are because they conflict with a certain religious viewpoint, they promote certain political views, they include “adult” topics that are seen as inappropriate for children or teens, or because a book doesn’t “share the values of the community.” Librarians around the world—including right here at the University of Illinois—work to stop the unnecessary censorship of books and other materials in schools and libraries, and instead work to educate communities on the power of freedom to read.

Happy Banned Books Week

What are some examples of banned books?

man opens glowing book

We’ve listed the top 10 most challenged books in the country from 2020 below, compiled by the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. Find them interesting? Click on the links to check them out from one of the university libraries!

  1. Melissa’s Story (Alex Gino): Originally published under the title “George,” this heartwarming middle grade novel follows the life of a young transgender girl as she tries out for a main role in the school play.
  2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds): In this nonfiction work, renowned scholars and authors Kendi and Reynolds explore the history of racist ideas in America, how racism continues to persist in American attitudes and structures of power, and include ways to advocate and fight for an antiracist future.
  3. All American Boys (Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely): Two teen boys (one who is Black, and one who is white) grapple with the aftermath of an incidence of police brutality in this young adult novel.
  4. Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson): A young woman in high school uses art to process and heal after experiencing a sexual assault in this young adult novel.
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie): A young man growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation explores his experiences at a predominantly white high school, inspired by Alexie’s own adolescence.
  6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story of Racial Injustice (Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, Ann Hazzard, ill. By Jennifer Zivoin): This children’s book follows the paths of a Black family and a white family as they follow the aftermath of the police shooting of a Black man in their community.
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee): This classic novel explores the trial of an innocent Black man in the Great Depression through the eyes of a six year old narrator.
  8. Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck): Steinbeck’s novel follows two migrant ranch workers as they travel through California during the Great Depression.
  9. The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison): Morrison’s heartbreaking novel tells the story of Pecola, a young Black girl growing up in Ohio.
  10. The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas): This young adult novel follows Starr as she grapples with the aftermath of the police killing of her friend and begins to advocate for racial justice.

Banned Books Week banner on red book

Written by: Aine
Posted by: Maurissa

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