Banned Books Week 2018, the annual celebration of the freedom to read, will be held September 23 – 29. The 2018 theme, “Banning Books Silences Stories,” is a reminder that everyone needs to speak out against the tide of censorship.
As we kicked off National Library Week, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom released their list of the Top 10 Challenged Books of 2017. The list includes the critically acclaimed and timely YA novel The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, the bestselling middle grades graphic novel Drama by Raina Telgemeier, the groundbreaking children’s book And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell, Justin Richardson, and Henry Cole, and much more. These stories and others have been silenced, and Banned Books Week is a call to action to speak up for the right to read.
“Tango has appeared on the ALA’s Most Challenged list for most of the dozen years since it was published,” says Parnell. “It’s a distinction we’re both proud of and wish didn’t exist. Thankfully, one powerful thing stands between our book and those who’ve tried to suppress it. It’s called the Constitution. Discretion is acceptable. Sensitivity is important. But censorship has no place in American public life.”
Drama has appeared in the Top 10 list three times now and is frequently challenged because it includes LGBTQ characters. “When Drama first appeared on the Top 10 list in 2015, I almost didn’t have the words to express myself,” Telgemeier explains. “But everyone deserves to see themselves in literature. Censorship sends a problematic message to readers, telling them that they aren’t worthy of enjoying stories they relate to.”
Students are increasingly defending challenged material. When The Hate U Give was removed from shelves in Katy, Texas, 15-year-old Ny’Shira Lundy started a petition that garnered nearly 4,000 signatures and helped restore the book. “I feel like children should have the power to learn about what they want to learn about,” Lundy told the National Coalition Against Censorship. “But by [removing a book], we don’t have intellectual freedom, we don’t open the door to learn about the things that we would like to learn about.”
Charles Brownstein, chair of the Banned Books Week Coalition (BBWC) committee, says, “Banned Books Week gives everyone a chance to celebrate their story. The courageous students, teachers, librarians, and authors who stand up for challenged ideas remind us that intellectual freedom is our birthright. By creating an event for your community, posting online about the freedom to read, or even just reading a banned book, each person has an opportunity to further that right.”
As the attacks on the right to read escalate, a celebration of reading is needed now more than ever. BBWC is here to support the community of readers, including students, educators, libraries, and booksellers, in the United States and abroad. Please join us during Banned Books Week, September 23 – 29, 2018!
Learn more about the Top 10 Challenged Books of 2017 at ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/NLW-Top10 and the challenges facing America’s libraries at ala.org/news/state-americas-libraries-report-2018.
ABOUT THE BANNED BOOKS WEEK COALITION
The Banned Books Week Coalition is an international alliance of diverse organizations joined by a commitment to increase awareness of the annual celebration of the freedom to read. The Coalition seeks to engage various communities and inspire participation in Banned Books Week through education, advocacy, and the creation of programming about the problem of book censorship.
The Banned Books Week Coalition includes American Booksellers Association; American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of University Presses; Authors Guild; Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; Dramatists Legal Defense Fund; Freedom to Read Foundation; Index on Censorship; National Coalition Against Censorship; National Council of Teachers of English; PEN America; People For the American Way; and Project Censored. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Banned Books Week also receives generous support from DKT Liberty Project and Penguin Random House.