Every year the American Library Association celebrates Banned Books Week. It’s a week that’s been celebrated for 40 years, highlighting historical and current attempts to ban books in schools and libraries in an effort to censor material accessible to students. Earlier this year, I wrote about the rights students have to access books if you wanted to take an in-depth look at what is and isn’t allowed legally. Librarians, educators, booksellers, journalists, and book lovers of all kinds unite to support the free expression of ideas and access to information of all kinds, even those that are unpopular or contrary to the status quo. Books highlighted during Banned Book Week are books that have been banned or targeted for removal in schools and libraries.
This year is September 18-24 and the topic is Books Unite Us.
Importance of note
Censorship has increased in America. Just last month in the Commonwealth of Virginia, where I teach and work, it was a case that defies obscenity gay sex And the Court of Mist and Fury She refused. In this case, the challenger was trying not only to ban these books from schools and libraries, but also to prevent Virginia Beach booksellers from providing them to their customers. Public libraries face threats to funding and collection development.
It is now more important than ever to speak out and defend the right of citizens to read. While people who want to ban or censor books are in the minority, only 29% of voters want to challenge books in public libraries and 33% want books removed from shelves in school libraries, these percentages can have a significant impact on society if they The only ones making any noise.
Celebrating Banned Books Week reminds us to educate ourselves about which books are being challenged. The American Library Association has a list of the top 10 challenged books by year. The lists are always changing, and you may be surprised by the books they have from year to year. gay sexPublished in 2019, it was the most challenging book of 2021 and in 2020 it was Melissa, published in 2015. These books were published years before her biggest challenge. The 2021 and 2020 lists include books that many consider classics such as blue eyeAnd the To kill a mockingbirdAnd the Of mice and men.
Things you can do
- Start a banned book club at your local or school library. If that sounds intimidating, I wrote a how-to guide for starting a club with teens.
- Join the Unite Against Book Bans campaign, where you can participate with other readers in the fight against censorship. They have a toolkit with talking points and social media tools.
- Host the Banned Books Week Questions game in the library. There is a suite of software already made for you. All you have to do is fill out the form with your name and email, then you can download the set.
- Write a letter using resources from the banned letter writing campaign Dear author. They provide templates for printable postcards. If writing a physical message isn’t your thing, they also have tips for tweeting.
- Check out our free ALA downloads for this year’s celebration. They have posters, graphs, and the 10 most challenging books of 2021.
- Follow BannedBooksWeek on Twitter. Not only will you be up to date with all the latest happenings of the week each year, but you’ll also be posting news stories about censorship, show ideas, and good things libraries are doing in their communities.
- Create a virtual escape room or lockout mode like this from the Algonquin Public Library area. The player must answer questions about the library, collection, and banned books in order to be entered to win a prize. With Google Forms, you can easily create a similar game for your friends or patrons of your library.
- Learn more about the Banned Books Week 2022 Honorary Chair George M. Johnson, author Not all boys are blue.
There are virtual programs throughout Banned Books Week.
Rioter Kelly Jensen has written an excellent guide on how to make a good display of banned books. And remember, it is important not only to highlight the classics that come to mind when we think of banned books, but also to include recent editions, provide publicity material alongside performances, focus on the celebration of intellectual freedom, and make sure to include a call to action for patrons.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include some sources for ideas on physical performances as well. Kelly suggests having a book-free display, with book holders only, to make a huge impact on what censorship could realistically look like without advocating intellectual freedom. ALA has a list of ideas for displays from locked chests to burnt banners. Also check out our Banned Books Week Pinterest page which has creative visuals to spark ideas.
Regardless of your choice of celebration, I hope you will be sure to take action this month to support your local library or school library. Whether it’s to educate yourself about students’ rights to access books or discover how to contact your legislators about book bans. Your vote and your vote are important.