Skip to Main Content

Banned Books 2023: Let Freedom Read: Home

This guide explains book bans, commonly banned books, censorship, and ways you can fight back.

Banner

Celebrate Banned Books Week - October 1-7, 2023

Why Banned Books Week?

Why Banned Books Week?

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Highlighting the value of free and open access to information, Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek, to publish, to read, and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restrictions in libraries and schools. While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.  –- Banned Books Week Q&A

Book Challenge vs. Book Ban

An attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. 

Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. 

A book banning is the actual removal of those materials

Censorship

A change in the access status of material, based on the content of the work and made by a governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include exclusion, restriction, removal, or age/grade level changes.

Intellectual Freedom

The right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.

Read Banned Books @ St. Kate's Library

A Court of Mist and Fury

A Court of Mist and Fury

Dear Martin

Dear Martin

Dreaming In Cuban

Dreaming in Cuban

Top 13 Most Challenged Books of 2022

Guide Feedback

Censorship and Book Challenges by the Numbers

From the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom

  • During the first half of the 2022-23 school year PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans lists 1,477 instances of individual books banned, affecting 874 unique titlesan increase of 28 percent compared to the prior six months, January – June 2022. That is more instances of book banning than recorded in either the first or second half of the 2021-22 school year. Over this six-month timeline, the total instances of book bans affected over 800 titles; this equates to over 100 titles removed from student access each month.
  • Overwhelmingly, book banners continue to target stories by and about people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals. In this six-month period, 30% of the unique titles banned are books about race, racism, or feature characters of color. Meanwhile, 26% of unique titles banned have LGBTQ+ characters or themes
  • The full impact of the book ban movement is greater than can be counted, as “wholesale bans” are restricting access to untold numbers of books in classrooms and school libraries. This school year, numerous states enacted “wholesale bans” in which entire classrooms and school libraries have been suspended, closed, or emptied of books, either permanently or temporarily. This is largely because teachers and librarians in several states have been directed to catalog entire collections for public scrutiny within short timeframes, under threat of punishment from new, vague laws. These “wholesale bans,” have involved the culling of books that were previously available to students, in ways that are impossible to track or quantify.

 

From the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom

From the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom

The most common themes in book challenges include:

  • Books that have to do with LGBTQ topics or characters.
  • Books that have to do with sex, abortion, teen pregnancy or puberty.
  • Books that have to do with race and racism, or that center on protagonists of color.
  • Books that have to do with history, specifically that of Black people.

 

Freedom to Read Statement

Seventy years ago, leaders from across the literary world joined together in writing to condemn attacks on free expression. The statement at the heart of that endeavor, the Freedom to Read Statement,was authored by the American Library Association and Association of American Publishers over a period of several days. It begins with this timeless observation:

The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack.    

Read the full Freedom to Read Statement.

 

From Unite Against Book Bans, 2023

The Fiery History of Banned Books Week

Advocacy and Activism around Banned Books

Whether by providing legal support, educational resources for parents, teachers, and librarians, or opportunities to organize on the grassroots level, there are many organizations which fight against efforts to ban books in school libraries and beyond, and many more which fight censorship more broadly.

Learn more about some of these organizations, and/or get involved, below:

©2024 St. Catherine University Library, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License