Readers from across the United States and around the world are demonstrating their support for free speech by participating in a virtual read-out of banned and challenged books that will culminate during the 29th annual Banned Books Week (Sept. 24-Oct. 1), the only national celebration of the freedom to read. Individuals, libraries and bookstores are uploading videos to a special channel on YouTube, submitting either a reading of up to two minutes or a description of a local book challenge of up to three minutes.
The virtual read-out is the centerpiece of an expanded Banned Books Week, which focuses attention on the censorship of books in schools and libraries. The American Library Association reported 348 challenges and bans in 2010. The most challenged book was And Tango Makes Three, an award-winning children’s picture book, based on an actual incident, that tells the story of two male penguins who hatch an abandoned egg and parent the chick. The book has been on the list of most frequently challenged books for five years. Other titles frequently challenged last year include Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and books in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. ALA publishes a Top Ten Banned Books list annually.
The authors of challenged books are also participating in the read-out. Videos of frequently censored authors Judy Blume and Lauren Myracle have recently been posted. Other highly acclaimed and frequently challenged authors, including Chris Crutcher, Paolo Bacigalupi, Sarah Dessen, William Joyce, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, have also recorded videos that will be posted in coming days. Check the Banned Books Week YouTube Channel daily for new videos, http://www.youtube.com/bannedbooksweek.
To support an expanded Banned Books Week, the sponsors have launched a redesigned website, www.bannedbooksweek.org. In addition to providing information about the virtual read-out, it includes an interactive map that shows the location of book challenges in recent years as well as a listing of featured events and a state-by-state listing of libraries, bookstores and other groups that are participating in Banned Books Week.
One Banned Books Week event is an eBay auction of more 70 pieces by leading artists in the children’s book industry, including Peter Brown, Susan Jeffers, Wendell Minor, Adam Rex and Paul O. Zelinsky. Proceeds from the auction will help support efforts to defend the First Amendment rights of young readers, including the Kids Right to Read Project, which is co-sponsored by the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). Items can be located on ABFFE’s eBay page.
To provide additional organizational support for Banned Books Week, the current sponsors–the ALA, ABFFE, the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), the Association of American Publishers (AAP), and the National Association of College Stores (NACS)–recruited several new sponsors this year: NCAC, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and PEN American Center (PEN). Project Censored has joined the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress as an endorser of Banned Books Week.
Publishers have increased their support as well. A number of AAP member publishers, including Hachette, Penguin, Random House, Scholastic, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster are providing guidance for the observance through an AAP Banned Books Week Publisher Task Force.