Virtual Read-Out of Banned Books Begins

Readers across the U.S. and around the world are demonstrating their support for free speech by participating in a virtual read-out of banned and challenged books that culminates in the 30th annual celebration of Banned Books Week, from September 24 – October 1.

 Individuals, bookstores, and libraries are uploading videos — either a reading of up to two minutes or a description of a local book challenge of up to three minutes — to a special Banned Books Week YouTube Channel.

Authors of challenged books are also participating in the read-out.  Videos of frequently censored authors Judy Blume and Lauren Myracle have already been posted. More videos are being posted daily, including readings from other highly acclaimed and/or frequently challenged authors, such as Chris Crutcher, Paolo Bacigalupi, Sarah Dessen, William Joyce, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Jay Asher, Justin Richardson, and Peter Parnell.

“We’re hoping for one of the biggest Banned Books Weeks ever,” said Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.  “The virtual read-out gives every person the chance to speak out against censorship, either by shooting their own video or participating in a read-out event in a bookstore or library.”

ABFFE has created a number of tools to help bookstores participate in Banned Books Week.  Booksellers who are mounting displays or staging events can use the form on the new Banned Books Week website to post them on a state-by-state directory.  Booksellers who are holding a read-out in their stores can download a poster advertising the event. ABFFE has also produced a flier to advertise the children’s art auction that it is conducting on eBay.

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, which tells the story of two male penguins that 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.

To support an expanded Banned Books Week, the sponsors have launched a redesigned website,  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 ABFFE’s eBay auction of more than 70 pieces by leading children’s book illustrators, 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 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, the Association of American Publishers, and the National Association of College Stores — recruited several new sponsors this year: NCAC, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the National Council of Teachers of English, and PEN American Center.  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.