What is Banned Books Week?

With Banned Books Week coming up in ten days, I thought this is a good time to talk about what it is and how books end up with such a label.

Image from BannedBooksWeek.org

Typically held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week 2020 runs September 27 through October 3rd. Books featured during this annual event have all been the focus of attempts to have them removed from libraries and schools, or at least to have their access limited.

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 American Library Association

According to Wikipedia, the first such week was in 1982, started by prominent First Amendment and library activist Judith Krug.

Wikipedia also says “Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA), the American Booksellers AssociationAmerican Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), American Society of Journalists and AuthorsAssociation of American Publishers, National Association of College Stores, and endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.”

These organizations work together to make sure all books are available to readers.

The most important part of celebrating Banned Books Week is to look at why these books are being challenged.

According to BannedBooks.org the most common reasons a book is challenged or banned are:

  • Being sexually explicit
  • Including profanity
  • Including racism
  • Including violence
  • For the religious viewpoint
  • Including sexual education
  • Including suicide
  • Including drug and alcohol use
  • Including nudity

While some of these reasons might make sense in theory, the danger comes in when one group gets to decide what is “appropriate” or “harmful” to everyone.

Part of the point of celebrating Banned Books Week is that while these titles have been challenged, and in some cases banned from specific locations, they are still widely available.

To ban a book such as The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas because it includes profanity is to do harm to all the potential readers who could gain valuable insights from reading this story.

The Harry Potter series has repeatedly been challenged and banned because it refers to magic and witchcraft, among other reasons.

 To Kill a Mockingbird, a Pulitzer Prize winning American classic, has been challenged and banned because of violence and the use of profanity and racial slurs.

Thank goodness all of these books remain accessible despite efforts to the contrary.

Celebrating Banned Books Week is a way readers can show their gratitude for these books.

To celebrate this year, I’ll be reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, which has been challenged and banned because it includes gang violence, profanity, and underage drinking/smoking.

I’d love to hear what you plan to read during Banned Books Week!


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