By: Ellie Diaz
Banned Books Week is just around the corner. Starting September 26, the week-long event is an opportunity to celebrate our shared freedom to read, spotlight censorship, and discuss the power of literature to bridge understanding.
This year’s theme is “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.” Sharing stories important to us means sharing a part of ourselves. Reading—especially books that extend beyond our own experiences—expands our worldview. Censorship, on the other hand, divides us and creates barriers. Find a Books Unite Us digital poster file package on the ALA Store to create your own designs and print your own posters!
Here are some events happening across the U.S. this Banned Books Week (September 26 – October 2, 2021)!
First, here are some virtual events all readers are invited to.
Ask Jason Reynolds Anything* (*About Banned Books) Facebook Live
Join the Banned Books Week Honorary Chair and bestselling author Jason Reynolds (All American Boys, Ghost, Long Way Down, Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, and Stamped) for a live streaming conversation 12 – 1 p.m. CT on September 28! Join ALA and the Banned Books Week Coalition on the Banned Books Week Facebook page for a conversation about censorship, young people’s literature, and the ways that books bring us together! Follow @BannedBooksWeek on Twitter and visit bannedbooksweek.org for updates on the event.
Do you have a burning question (about censorship) for Jason Reynolds?! If you’re a teen or an educator, a librarian, or a bookseller who works with teens, now’s your chance! Head to bannedbooksweek.org for details.
Each year during Banned Books Week, Amnesty International draws attention to people around the world who have been imprisoned, threatened, or murdered because of what they wrote or published or because of their work in the publishing or media industries. In solidarity with ALA and organizations across the U.S. and around the world, Amnesty activists work to fight challenges to freedom of expression. This Banned Books Week, Amnesty International is highlighting six of the many hundreds of cases worldwide where freedom of expression is endangered.
On Tuesday, September 21, join human rights activists and hear from a panel of speakers who work against censorship and defend freedom of expression globally. Amnesty International also has a Banned Books Week landing page, with resources and materials continuing to be added.
Banned Books with Bookmans Mesa 2021
Next up are some Banned Books Week events happening across the country. Did we miss your program? Post it in the comments!
- Creativity is welcomed at the New Milford Public Library’s make-a-meme contest and banned books party!
- Readers at the Acadia Parish Library will have their markers and colored pencils ready to create posters celebrating their favorite banned book. Which book would you draw on your poster?
- Which book is the most banned and challenged? When was Banned Books Week founded? The Southbury Public Library is hosting a trivia night based on banned and challenged titles.
- Looking to host your own trivia night? Explore this program-in-a-box from the Banned Books Week Coalition.
- At the Wilson County Public Library, teens will learn fascinating facts about banned books in a virtual scavenger hunt.
- The New Madrid County Library System is celebrating the “write” to read with an essay contest for teens around this year’s theme “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.”
- Trivia, photo ops, scavenger hunts, banned author letter-writing — the Highland County District Library will be hosting these activities during its week-long Banned Books Festival! The festival will culminate with a catered dinner and discussion. Throughout the week, patrons will be given tickets to be entered in a drawing for a banned book-themed gift basket: Harry Potter, To Kill a Mockingbird (southern-themed basket), The Great Gatsby (1920s-themed basket), Lord of the Flies (survival/camping/hiking-themed basket), and The Call of the Wild (dog-themed basket).
- Host your own Dear Banned Author program with these postcards, addresses, and program ideas!
- Along with a banned book display, the Patchogue-Medford Library will host a community-wide “Hide A Book” activity where banned and challenged books will be placed in local businesses. The library is also hosting a discussion with PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel on the necessity of free speech, listening, and debating to create productive conversations in a democratic society.
- West Lake Middle School and Northglenn Middle School are inviting staff, teachers, and students to join the Banned Books Week conversation, with QR codes placed around the school that lead students to learn more about censorship and will be incorporated into a scavenger hunt.
- At the Campbell County Public Library, teens can read any banned or challenged book to earn points that will enter them to win an amazing prize!
- City Lit Theater has teamed up with ALA in celebration of Banned Books Week since 2006, performing at special events, libraries, and bookstores in and around Chicago. Books on the Chopping Block is its annual 60-minute performance of dramatic readings of short excerpts taken from ALA’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books. Check out clips from City Lit Theater’s performance last year below. Libraries can reach out to Katy Nielsen to schedule an online performance!
And lastly, below are some previous Banned Books Week events for additional programming inspiration.
- The Soule Branch Library’s Amy Bader and Adriana Sotolongo created a phoenix out of poster board and streamers to hang above the display at the Onondaga County Public Library System in Syracuse, NY.
- Hayley Wilkins from the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System created an interactive display of banned books, with the front of a shelf displaying a selection of banned books and the side displaying flip-open cards. The outside of the flip-open card listed the reason a book was banned, and the inside included which book on the display was banned for that reason. “My big tip would be to either have images of the covers behind them so that if you do have the books available to check out that the game is still playable,” said Hayley. “Alternatively you can check the books out to your library’s account so that they remain on the display. We also offered to take pictures of our patrons holding a banned book in front of the display and posted them on social media with permission. We had so many patrons engaging the staff in conversations around book banning and censorship while this display was up, it was a real win for our library!”
- Christy created an interactive banned/challenged book exhibit that includes “props” from banned books, a listening station, and character art.
- Every year, the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library extends an invitation to an artist, educator, or other passionate visitor to become the Activist in Residence and “live” in the museum for the entire week behind a wall of banned books.
- The Baker Middle School in Tacoma, WA, used large boxes to create a locked cell, and students put the final touches on the display. “I had the students research books that have been banned and the reasons why they were banned. They cross referenced that list with books that we have in our library,” said librarian Kristin Sierra. “Then they had to locate them on the shelves and put them in the box. It started some great dialogue in our class!”
- Nashville Public Library has celebrated Banned Books Week with fiery displays, caution tape, and discarded pages. Check out the library’s slideshow of book displays.
However you’re planning to recognize Banned Books Week, ALA has everything you need to celebrate with cover photos, social media shareables, and infographics.
With her journalism background and fierce devotion to the freedom to read, Ellie Diaz has collaborated with experts on organizing ALA’s Banned Books Week. As a biblio-writer, she enjoys exploring the intersection of advocacy and literature.