September 18-24 is Banned Books Week, and we’re celebrating by protecting the freedom to read for all library patrons.
The Office of Intellectual Freedom started the recognition week forty years ago to draw attention to the attempts to remove books and other materials from schools, classrooms, and libraries. In 2021, 1,597 individual books were removed or requested to be removed. The majority of those books were by and/or about Black or LGBTQ people. Books like The Hate U Give and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian make the top ten most challenged list year after year, despite winning some of the most prestigious awards for young adult novels. Newer titles like Gender Queer and All Boys Aren’t Blue started facing challenges as soon as they hit the shelves, and they both made it to the top ten list this year too.
When books are removed from libraries and schools, we take away the freedom from readers to make their own selections, from parents to determine which books are right for their own children, and from teachers to choose the materials that are most suitable for their classrooms. We also send the message that some people’s stories are not worth telling or are too dangerous to tell. The honorary chair for Banned Books Week is George M. Johnson, author of All Boys Aren’t Blue. They share “I know what it is like to grow up and not have stories about my own lived experience, nor the truth outside of an ahistorical context…. When the youth are empowered with stories about the experiences of others, they become adults who understand the necessity for equity and equality and have the tools to build a world the likes of which we have never seen.”