Banned Books Week

Attempts to ban books violate one of the most fundamental tenets of our democracy: free speech. Several frequently banned and challenged books appear in our Library, including Planet Word advisor Jason Reynolds’s Long Way Down, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. They are precisely the books that make readers think and expose them to diverse experiences.

We’ve curated a selection of Banned Books Week resources that you can view below.

Messages From the Founder

On Banned Books

Over the past several years, there have been numerous efforts to ban books across the United States. Planet Word Founder Ann Friedman shares her thoughts on these recent efforts: “Too often when social mores are changing quickly, when long-held beliefs are being questioned, books that deal with challenges to the status quo are often blamed for causing that change.”

From The Advisory Board

“It’s Not a Badge of Honor”

The award-winning author of more than a dozen books for young people and an outspoken critic of literary censorship, Planet Word Advisor Jason Reynolds served as the Inaugural Honorary Chair for Banned Books Week 2021. He visited The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in December 2021 to talk about the importance of children’s literature, his book Stuntboy, in the Meantime, and the negative impact of banning books.

From PEN America

Banned in the USA

As an organization that champions the freedom to write, PEN America has long been concerned with efforts to ban books. With the rapid increase in efforts to ban books across the country, they have collated an Index of School Book Bans to track these efforts. Read their new report to learn more about what types of book bans are taking place in schools, where they are happening, and what types of books are being banned.

Banned Books Week Reading Lists

We never thought about whether a book was banned when we selected the books in the magical Schwarzman Family Library on our second floor. We just wanted to feature great literature that speaks to a diverse array of experiences and bring books to life for new audiences. And yet, 11 of the books on our shelves have been subject to book bans across the nation.

Read the list

According to the American Library Association, there have been more challenges to books this year than they have seen since they started tracking the practice in 2000. Many of the books banned and challenged in 2022 are related to LGBTQIA+ topics and most were written by Black or LGBTQIA+ authors. Some challenges have arisen from the objection that the books’ content is too sexually explicit for the age range recommended. Other objections state that these books “normalize homosexuality” or “encourage alternative lifestyles” or “lifestyle choices that counteract church teachings.” George M. Johnson, author of the frequently banned book All Boys Aren’t Blue, told NBC News, “It’s heavy. But at the same time, I’m witnessing parents buy this book for their teens. I’m witnessing parents and teens reading the book together. I’m also witnessing students find their agency and find their voice because I’m using mine.”

Read the list

Religious book censorship can be traced back hundreds of years. Today, the “religious reasons” umbrella covers a broad range of objections to books. For instance, Bless me, Ultima has been challenged as anti-Catholic, since the main character struggles with his faith in Catholicism. Challenges to Nasreen’s Secret School stem from the fact that the characters are Muslim and pray to Allah. Some religious objections, such as those aimed at the wildly popular Harry Potter series, center around the exploration of witchcraft or magic. Other books are challenged because they are perceived to promote atheism.

Read the list

This category is not just about swear words. It includes books that are challenged for blasphemous dialog, for instance using “God” or “Jesus” as profanity. And increasingly, parents’ and community members’ objections to the use of the N-word have targeted such classics as To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Sherman Alexie, author of the frequently-banned The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, says he actually enjoys getting banned, most often for offensive language. “It calls attention to the efforts of some people to control what we read,” he wrote on his blog. “Fight the censors who come from the right, middle, and left.”

Read the list

Additional Resources

Censorship by the Numbers


How to Fight Book Bans


Defending Intellectual Freedom: LGBTQ+ Materials in School Libraries