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Reading Central : Banned Books and Censorship

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Banned Book Introduction and the Top 10 Most Challenged Books

Books unite us. Sharing stories important to us means sharing a part of ourselves. Books reach across boundaries and build connections between readers. Reading—especially books that extend beyond our own experiences—expands our worldview. Censorship, on the other hand, divides us and creates barriers.

  • Raise awareness of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020 this National Library Week (April 4-10, 2021) with the below graphics and activities.
  • Gear up for Banned Books Week (September 26 - October 2, 2021)

About Book Bans and Challenges

Books are still being banned and challenged today. A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials.

While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.

Challenge Yourself

How well do you know your banned books?  In honor of Banned Book Week 2019 New York Public Library presented this Banned Book Quiz.

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Test your knowledge of banned and challenged books! Every book mentioned in this quiz has at some point made the American Library Association's yearly list .

How Stuff Works: Banned Book Quiz

Why did the Menifree Union School District ban the "Merriam-Webster" dictionary in 2010?...and other questions

15 trivia questions for Banned Books Week

by Abra Cole of the Spokane Valley Library



Banned Book Week

Hand holding a megaphone

Find out more about the history of banned books, current events, and how you can fight against censorship at ALA's Banned Book Week page.


The following is from the American Libraries Magazine article 50 Years of Intellectual Freedom, written by OIF staff celebrating the office’s anniversary.

Banned Books Week was launched in the 1980s, a time of increased challenges, organized protests, and the Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982) Supreme Court case, which ruled that school officials can’t ban books in libraries simply because of their content.

Banned books were showcased at the 1982 American Booksellers Association (ABA) BookExpo America trade show in Anaheim, California. At the entrance to the convention center towered large, padlocked metal cages, with some 500 challenged books stacked inside and a large overhead sign cautioning that some people considered these books dangerou

Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020

Find more shareable statistics on the Free Downloads webpage.

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 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

Banned Book Breakout 


Try out this Digital Banned Book Breakout from Chapin Library

Celebrate Banned Book Week - Stanislaus Library

Digital Escapes from Stanislaus Library

Banned Book Week Themes

Each year there is an unique Banned Book Week theme: 


2021: "Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us."

Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us 2021 ALA Logo


censorship is a dead end. find your freedom to read during banned books week logo

2019: Censorhip Leaves us in the Dark. Keep the LIght On.

censorship leaves us in the dark. keep the light on logo

2018: Banning Books Silences Stories. Speak Out!

banning books silences stories. speak out logo

2017: Words Have Power. Read a Banned Book

words have power read a banned book logo

Check out these Websites for More About Banned Books


Banned Books Week

This site offers resources for celebrating Banned Books Week. Included are Banned Books Week news, events and materials.

Banned Books Online

The Online Books Page presents a brief look at book banning with links to online texts of books banned by legal authorities and schools.

National Coalition Against Censorship

The National Coalition Against Censorship, an alliance of fifty-two participating organizations, is dedicated to protecting free expression and access to information.

NCTE Intellectual Freedom Center

NCTE offers advice, helpful documents, and other support at no cost to teachers faced with challenges to literary works, films and videos, drama productions, or teaching methods.