On April 20, the Banned Books Week coalition, an international alliance of diverse organizations joined by a commitment to increase awareness of the annual celebration of the freedom to read, announced this year’s theme: “Censorship Is a Dead End.” Banned Books Week, which promotes the right to read, will be held September 27–October 3, 2020.
To help celebrate this year’s theme, booksellers were invited to join the Banned Books Week Coalition at 1:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, April 22, for a special Facebook Live conversation about the 2020 theme and censorship with Laurie Halse Anderson (author of the frequently challenged novel Speak) and an exclusive statement from David Levithan (author of the challenged novel Two Boys Kissing).
Since it was founded in 1982, Banned Books Week has looked to help people recognize and navigate censorship. This year’s celebration embraces a maze motif, an attainable and customizable idea that offers publishers, booksellers, librarians, educators, journalists, and others an opportunity to engage with their communities in a variety of ways, from focused programming to big events.
In recognition of National Library Week (April 19–25), the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom released its list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2019. This list highlights the ways in which curtailing reading materials makes the world smaller. In 2019, ALA tracked nearly 377 attempts to censor library, school, and university materials and services, encompassing 566 books that were challenged or banned. The list includes books that can help readers, especially young people, understand and navigate tough situations, such as George by Alex Gino; Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin; Sex Is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth; I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings, and Shelagh McNicholas; and Drama by Raina Telgemeier.
“Books can help young people and readers of all ages explore worlds, lives, and experiences beyond their own,” said Nora Pelizzari, director of communications for the National Coalition Against Censorship. “This exploration is crucial in learning to think critically and independently and to navigate ourselves through life. Limiting access to ideas hurts everyone, and particularly students. Banned Books Week gives us a chance to champion the diverse ideas books let us explore.”
Libraries and schools aren’t the only institutions impacted by censorship, and Banned Books Week is an opportunity for many to engage their communities in a conversation about attempts to stifle creativity, says David Grogan, director for American Booksellers for Free Expression, the bookseller’s voice for free expression.
“Banned Books Week is one of the most important events of the year for independent booksellers,” said Grogan. “It provides booksellers a crucial opportunity to promote conversations about controversial books. Customers are often surprised to hear that book banning still continues to this day, and Banned Books Week is a tremendous way to highlight the importance of the freedom to read.”
The Banned Books Week Coalition includes American Booksellers Association; American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of University Presses; Authors Guild; Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE); Freedom to Read Foundation; Index on Censorship; National Coalition Against Censorship; National Council of Teachers of English; PEN America; People For the American Way Foundation; and Project Censored. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Banned Books Week also receives generous support from DKT Liberty Project and Penguin Random House.