Happy Banned Book Week 2021. My library is decorated this year unlike last year when our school was shut down for the pandemic. I did not decorate because no one was allowed in the library to take out books! Yet, despite COVID the American Library Association reported 156 challenges of 273 books this past year. Most of the challenged books dealt with racism and racial justice, or were biographies about Black, Indigenous, or people of color.
Jason Reynolds is the honorary chairman for Banned Book Week 2021 and his book, All American Boys, is the third most challenged book this year. The top 5 are rounded out by: George for LGBTQIA+ content, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, Speak by Lauri Halse Anderson, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. The latter two are challenged almost every year.
It is only fitting that we celebrate these and other banned books in the library in September since it is the same month we celebrate Constitution Day. The First Amendment is what Banned Book Week is all about, our Freedom to Read!
In November of 2020 the freedom to read was taken away from students in Central York School District in Pennsylvania. Some 100 books were banned, taken off the school library shelves, and out of the classrooms for the school board to “review.” At the start of this month, September 2021, none of the books had been returned to the libraries or classrooms. Some brave students drew national attention to the situation when they rallied and spoke in front of the school board to get the books reinstated. Most of the books banned were by or about people of color and many were picture books like I am Enough, Hair Love and, Jabari Jumps. Others were biographies like: I am Martin Luther King, Jr., and I am Malala. After weeks of protest, the school board decided to reverse their ban, the students and everyone in the community won a victory for equality, diversity, and inclusion but more than that, they won a victory for the First Amendment. Now the bravery of the students is being rewarded via the donations of hundreds and hundreds of books by people from all over the world.