In an Entertainment Weekly exclusive, bestselling author Jason Reynolds was announced today as the inaugural Honorary Chair of Banned Books Week 2021. FIRE has been a member of the Banned Books Week Coalition since 2019.
Reynolds is a timely choice, as two of his books, “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” (with co-author Ibram X. Kendi) and “All American Boys” (with co-author Brendan Kiely), occupy the number two and three slots in the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020 list recently released by the American Library Association.
This year’s celebration of access to books that have been challenged or banned due to their provocative content will take place from Sept. 26-Oct. 2 and will center around the theme “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.”
While commenting on his new role, Reynolds addressed the importance of this year’s theme: “What does it mean when we say, ‘Books unite us?’ It means that books are the tethers that connect us culturally.” He continued, “Stories ground us in our humanity; they convince us that we’re not actually that different and that the things that are actually different about us should be celebrated because they are what make up this tapestry of life.”
Reynolds also described the harm that censoring books brings:
To censor a book is to damage the framework in which we live. . . . Any time we eliminate or wall off certain narratives, we are not getting a whole picture of the world in which we live. And navigating the world in a way that is closed-off, closed-minded, is poisonous. It means that we limit our vocabulary, which complicates how we communicate with one another. We have to celebrate stories and ensure that all books have a space on the shelves and the opportunity to live in the psyches of our children, as they grow into the human beings who will inherit this wonderful place.
Recently, FIRE has seen an influx of legislation which could impact academic freedom and professors’ ability to choose which books they teach, so this year’s celebration is of particular importance to us.
Stay tuned for how FIRE will be celebrating the importance of open access to literature during this year’s Banned Books Week!
FIRE’s Banned Books Week related resources
- Recommended Common Reads from FIRE and First Amendment Watch
- Banned Books Week 2020 Trivia
- Free FIRE Comic Book: “Finding Your Voice”
- Video Lesson and Orientation Presentation: “Academic Freedom and Classroom Speech”
- High School Lesson Plan: “Freedom of the Press and Newspaper Theft on Campus”