Banned Books Week Announces 2021 Theme: Books Unite Us

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Censorship Divides Us, Books Unite Us: Banned Books WeekOn April 5, the Banned Books Week Coalition announced the 2021 Banned Books Week theme: Books Unite Us, Censorship Divides Us. This year’s Banned Books Week, the annual celebration of the right to read, will be held September 26–October 2, 2021.

Banned Books Week was founded in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, students, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas.

This year’s motif is a pair of hands sharing a book, superimposed on a globe. The 2021 theme is intended to be inclusive, emphasizing the ways in which books and information bring people together, help individuals see themselves in the stories of others, and aid the development of empathy and understanding for people from other backgrounds.

In recognition of National Library Week (April 4–10, 2020), the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom released their list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020. This list highlights the ways in which curtailing reading materials makes the world smaller. In 2020, ALA tracked 156 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services, encompassing 273 books that were challenged. The most challenged books were:

  1. George by Alex Gino
  2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
  3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
  4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

“Many people are surprised to hear that book banning continues to this day, which is why Banned Books Week is so crucial for independent bookstores,” said David Grogan, director of the American Booksellers for Free Expression. “The week provides booksellers an important opportunity to discuss with customers the importance of the free exchange of ideas and 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.