Banned Books Week, from October 1 to 7 this year, celebrates the freedom to read and draws national attention to the harms of censorship. Why should families take notice?
During the 2022-2023 school year alone, a handful of extremists banned or restricted access to books 3,362 times, according to a new report by PEN America, a nonpartisan organization that aims to protect freedom of expression. This was up from 2,532 instances of book bans in the previous school year.
Book banning certainly isn’t new. Some people have used censorship and book banning (even book burning!) to limit freedom to information for centuries. But recently, book bans are happening more and more frequently across the United States.
Not only are these book bans becoming more common, but they overwhelmingly focus on topics that reflect real, lived experiences and topics that kids need information about to thrive in a diverse world. Most commonly, bans target books that discuss race or racism, or those featuring characters of color or LGBTQ+ characters. And according to PEN America, “this year, banned books also include books on physical abuse, health and well-being, and themes of grief and death.”
Find out more and take our quiz below to get personalized recommendations of great kids’ books that have been banned.
How do book bans affect kids and families?
Book banners have succeeded in removing or restricting books in more than 150 districts in 33 states during the past school year. These bans directly impact kids’ and teens’ freedom to access books — more than 75 percent of books banned during 2022-2023 were young adult and children’s books!
Books — often about important topics like racism, diversity, and LGBTQ+ identities — that were chosen by librarians, educators, and other literacy experts to teach and engage students are being pulled off of shelves at alarming rates because of a relatively tiny number of complaints.
In most cases, the books’ content hasn’t even been evaluated by an expert yet, but the books are “banned pending investigation” and taken off of shelves. The arduous process of evaluating these challenged books means that not only are the books unavailable to students for long periods of time, but that school and library personnel are less able to focus on other critical work to help kids learn.
Which books are kids and families missing out on?
Books that have been recently banned or challenged across the country are most frequently written by women, people of color, and/or LGBTQ+ authors.
Complainants try to claim that the books in question are inappropriate or harmful to children, but the fact is that most of the books are simply offering diverse perspectives, addressing tough-but-real subjects like grief or racism, or providing health information to young people.
Through diverse books, kids can find mirrors (experiences or identities that reflect their own) and windows (experiences or identities different from their own) — both of which are essential to healthy child development and learning. They are crucial for helping kids understand the contributions, struggles, and experiences of different groups of people and communities.
Take the Banned Book Personality Quiz
Ready to find out which recently banned book would be perfect for your family? Answer these questions about your child’s personality for some fresh, engaging (banned) book recommendations, based on their interests and sorted by age!
What can my family do about book bans?
If you’re upset about the widespread book banning and censorship happening in schools and libraries across the country, you can take action.
Click here to send a letter to your state legislators to tell them that our kids deserve the freedom to read and learn!