Banned Books Week 2020: September 27 – October 3
Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
What is a challenge? What is a ban?
Book bans generally start with a challenge — a verbal or formal written attempt to restrict access to materials or to remove them entirely. A ban happens when those materials are actually removed from the shelves, classrooms, or performance spaces.
Are books really still banned in the United States?
Yes! Every year the American Library Association reports hundreds of challenges to book in school and libraries all over the United States, and ALA estimates that the unreported number of challenges is significantly higher. People continually try to take away readers' power to decide what books are right for themselves or their children by initiating challenges to remove books from libraries. IN some cases, book are actually removed from library and classrooms. This not only infringes on readers' rights, but also limits access to materials, especially for those who do not have the opportunity to purchase books.
Why are books challenged?
Books are usually challenged with the best of intentions, often motivated by a desire to protect younger readers from "inappropriate" content. Books are challenged over sexual content, profanity, age appropriateness, violence, religious viewpoint, LGBTQ content, political bias, drug and alcohol use, suicide, and much more.
Who challenges and bans books?
Most challenges come from library patrons and parents, who raise concerns over content they find objectionable. Sometimes, a library or school staffer or administrator will bring a challenge. Politicians, political organizations, and religious groups have also targeted books and plays. On a few occasions, students have brought complaints to administrators.
The ultimate arbitrator of the challenge depends on the policies of the institution where a book is challenged. Institutions without a thoughtful reconsideration protocol are far more likely to ban materials.
Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2019
George by Alex Gino
When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl. George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part . . . because she's a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.
Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, religious viewpoint, and sexual references.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.
Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints.
A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
Meet Marlon Bundo, a lonely bunny who lives with his Grampa, Mike Pence - the Vice President of the United States. But on this Very Special Day, Marlon's life is about to change forever...
Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased.
Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
A comic book for kids that includes children and families of all makeups, orientations, and gender identities, Sex Is a Funny Word is an essential resource about bodies, gender, and sexuality for children ages 8 to 10 as well as their parents and caregivers. Much more than the "facts of life" or "the birds and the bees," Sex Is a Funny Word opens up conversations between young people and their caregivers in a way that allows adults to convey their values and beliefs while providing information about boundaries, safety, and joy.
Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and sex education.
Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis
Once upon a time, in a kingdom far from here, there was a prince in line to take the throne, so his parents set out to find him a kind and worthy bride. The three of them traveled the land far and wide, but the prince didn't quite find what he was looking for in the princesses they met.
While they were away, a terrible dragon threatened their land, and all the soldiers fled. The prince rushed back to save his kingdom from the perilous beast and was met by a brave knight in a suit of brightly shining armor. Together they fought the dragon and discovered that special something the prince was looking for all along.
Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, religious viewpoint, and gay marriage.
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl's brain in a boy's body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn't feel like herself in boys' clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way.
Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...
Challenged for sexual references and profanity.
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school's production of Moon Over Mississippi, she can't really sing. Instead she's the set designer for the drama department stage crew, and this year she's determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn't know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!
Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter's life is miserable. His parents are dead and he's stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he's a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.
Though Harry's first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it's his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.
Challenged for magic and witchcraft.
And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson illustrated by Henry Cole
At New York City's Central Park Zoo, two male penguins fall in love and start a family by taking turns sitting on an abandoned egg until it hatches.
Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content.