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Honoring Banned Books Week with “Read Outs”

September 26 kicks off 2021’s Banned and Challenged Books Week, where we celebrate the right not only to read, but to have the right to choose what we read without censorship.

Each year, Banned and Challenged Books Week  has a different theme.  This year’s theme is Books Unite Us; Censorship Divides Us.

At Potsdam Public Library we celebrate the right to read and aim to give the public open access to books and information and to raise awareness of censorship.

In addition, we work to create programs that support the promotion of reading and fight against censorship.

So, to kick off Banned and Challenged Books week, on Sunday, Sept. 26, from 2 to 3 p.m. we will be hosting a “Read Out” on the front steps of the library where community members, educators and writers will talk about the fight against censorship and will read selections from books that have been banned or challenged by schools, bookstores or libraries. 

In the event of inclement weather, the program will take place inside the library in the main reading room. 

Throughout the remainder of the week, ending Oct. 2, there will be an open mic from noon to 1 p.m. set up on either the library front steps or in the library’s main reading room, again, depending upon the weather, where members of the public can sign up to read for up to 15 minutes from a selection of any book that has been banned or challenged.

According to the the American Library Association (ALA), 

“Every year, the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles a list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books in order to inform the public about censorship in libraries and schools. The lists are based on information from media stories and voluntary reports sent to OIF from communities across the U.S. The Top 10 lists are only a snapshot of books challenged. Surveys indicate that 82-97% of book challenges – documented requests to remove materials from schools or libraries – remain unreported and receive no media.”

You can find the top 10 most challenged books for each year (2001 – present) here.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 156 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2020. Of the 273 books that were targeted, here are the 10 most challenged, along with the reasons cited for censoring the books:

  1. George by Alex Gino
    Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”
  2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because of author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people
  3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”
  4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
    Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author
  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
    Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience
  8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students
  9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse
  10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
    Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message. American Library Association. (1996-2021). Top 10 Most Challenged Books Lists. Retrieved from https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10

To learn more about Banned and Challenged Books Week, visit bannedbooksweek.org