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Banned Books & the Freedom to Read: Home

A resource for learning all about Banned Books Week, current trends in the news, and how readers everywhere can celebrate and champion the freedom to read.

Celebrate Banned Books Week - September 18-24th, 2022

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

Book Bans in Minnesota

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:

Censorship and Book Challenges by the Numbers

From the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom

  • From July 2021 to June 2022, PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans lists 2,532 instances of individual books being banned, affecting 1,648 unique book titles.
  • The 1,648 titles are by 1,261 different authors, 290 illustrators, and 18 translators, impacting the literary, scholarly, and creative work of 1,553 people altogether.
  • Bans occurred in 138 school districts in 32 states. These districts represent 5,049 schools with a combined enrollment of nearly 4 million students.
  • At least 40 percent of bans listed in the Index (1,109 bans) are connected to either proposed or enacted legislation, or to political pressure exerted by state officials or elected lawmakers to restrict the teaching or presence of certain books or concepts.

  • PEN America has identified at least 50 groups involved in pushing for book bans across the country operating at the national, state or local levels. 

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.

Author Spotlight: George M. Johnson

Photo credit: Vincent Marc

“Being the honorary chair for Banned Books Week is important to me because I know what it is like to grow up and not have stories about my own lived experience, nor the truth outside of an ahistorical context,” says Johnson. “This is a fight for the truth that has always existed even if it rarely gets told. When the youth are empowered with stories about the experiences of others, they become adults who understand the necessity for equity and equality and have the tools to build a world the likes of which we have never seen.”

--George M. Johnson Named Honorary Chair of Banned Books Week

 

 

All Boys Aren’t Blue was the third title on the American Library Association’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2021, an annual list released during National Library Week. Like most of the books on the list, All Boys Aren’t Blue was challenged for LGBTQ+ content, which is disproportionately targeted for censorship alongside works dealing with racism and racial identity. Several state legislatures have passed or are considering laws that would limit instruction related to LGBTQ+ identity and race. Johnson and many other authors addressing these issues are impacted, and students are harmed by the resulting censorship.

--George M. Johnson Named Honorary Chair of Banned Books Week

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