Today marks the start of one of the most important weeks of the year: Banned Books Week. Why is it so important? Simple: it’s all about protecting your right to read, and your right to decide what your kids read. It’s about telling the world that you won’t let anyone rob you of your right to explore the world through the words of another, be it fiction or non-fiction. It’s about standing up and saying “I am capable of making my own decisions regarding the material that I read and that I allow my children to read. I do not need you to make this decision for me.”

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Celebrate Diversity During Banned Books Week

This year, Banned Books Week has a very special theme: Celebrating Diversity. If you read my post about how we need more diverse books, you’ll know why this matters so much. Children and teens are more likely to read a story that features a main character that they can relate to. It’s just common sense. We all sort of put ourselves into the shoes of the lead role, and that’s easier when we see something of ourselves in that character. We want to see someone like us triumph over the antagonist because it gives us hope that we can do the same against the antagonists in our own lives.

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It is so important that all children have this chance, to see themselves in a story’s character, to see someone exactly like them triumphing over adversity. Yet every day, diverse books are being challenged or banned across the nation. Look at these statistics from the Banned Books Week website:

The University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) and publisher Lee & Low have provided statistics from 1994 to 2012 that illustrate that while 37% of the U.S. population are people of color, only 10% of books published focus on multicultural content. In addition, ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, has determined that 52% of the books challenged, or banned, over the past decade are from titles that are considered diverse content.

The reasons behind the bannings and challengings do not matter, but the article cites “outcry of parents” as the primary reason. One segment of parents who decide what all other children should or shouldn’t read. One segment who is so terrified of diversity, of people who are different from them in some ways, that they have to rip that diversity from the hands of all children.

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It’s not just the children portrayed in the diverse books that lose out when these stories are ripped from the shelves. Other children- and adults- lose the opportunity to see the world outside their own door, their own race, gender (or gender identification), religious and philosophical beliefs. When we start taking that away, start limiting children to a specific pre-approved story, we’re removing their chance to grow, learn, explore, accept & respect others. We’re making the world a very narrow-minded, bleak place.

Diverse books matter, for all these reasons and more.

Top 20 Frequently Challenged and Banned Diverse Books

For the full list of 58 books, please visit the Banned Books Week Frequently Challenged Books with Diverse Content article.

  1. A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines
  2. A Hero Ain’t Nothin But a Sandwich by Alice Childress
  3. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
  4. Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by  Sherman Alexie
  5. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds
  6. Always Running by Luis J Rodriguez
  7. Am I Blue?:  Coming Out from the Silence by Marion Dane Baue
  8. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  9. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Girl
  10. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
  11. Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X; Alex Haley
  12. Baby Be-Bop by Francesca Lia Block
  13. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  14. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out  by Susan Kuklin
  15. Black Boy by Richard Wright
  16. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A Anaya
  17. Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa
  18. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  19. Drama by Raina Telgemeier
  20. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
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I am shocked to see such important historical stories like The Diary of Anne Frank and the Malcolm X biography on the list.

Support diverse books during Banned Books Week by checking out the ways you can get involved. These range from simply changing your Facebook and Twitter profile pic to hosting your own banned books readathon.