Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. It highlights the value of free and open access to information.
The theme of this year’s event is “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.” Reading - especially books that extend beyond our own experiences - expands our worldviews. Censorship, on the other hand, divides us and creates barriers.
Banned Books Week also includes challenged books. What is the difference between a challenge or a banning? A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. 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.
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's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles lists of challenged books as reported in the media and submitted by librarians and teachers across the country. Check out the top ten most challenged books from 2020 below.
The Top 10 Challenged Books of 2020
- George by Alex Gino
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
- All American Boys by Jason Reynolds
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
- Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard; Illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Library staff share some of their favorite books, which have been banned or challenged in recent years.
Resources on Banned Books Week (from bannedbooksweek.org & the American Library Association)
The First Amendment in Schools: A Resource Guide
National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) presents a collection of materials on the topic of censorship in schools for the use of students, educators, and parents everywhere.
The Students' Right to Read
Gives model procedures for responding to challenges, including “Citizen’s Request for Reconsideration of a Work.”
BE HEARD! Protecting Your Protest Rights
A joint effort of National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Be Heard! Protecting Your Rights is a short comic by Kai Texel that delineates the protest rights of students in the United States. View this important tool for student advocacy here.
Texts Challenged, 2002-2018
National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has compiled a list of the books it has defended over the last several years.
Banned/Challenged Book FAQ
A list of frequently asked questions on banned and challenged books.