Jason Reynolds Named Inaugural Honorary Chair of Banned Books Week
For Immediate Release
ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom
The American Library Association (ALA) and the Banned Books Week Coalition are excited to announce that banned author Jason Reynolds has been named the inaugural Honorary Chair for Banned Books Week 2021. The New York Times bestselling author will headline the annual celebration of the right to read, which takes place September 26 – October 2, 2021.
Reynolds is the author of more than a dozen books for young people, including Ghost, Long Way Down, and Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks. Two of Reynolds’ books — All American Boys (with Brendan Kiely) and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (with Ibram X. Kendi) — were among the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020, released by ALA. Shareable infographics and images about the challenged titles can be found on the ALA website.
A multiple National Book Award finalist and a NAACP Image Award recipient, Reynolds has also received a Newbery Honor, a Printz Honor, and several Coretta Scott King Award honors from the American Library Association. He is currently serving a two-year term as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for the Library of Congress and served as the national spokesperson for the 2018 celebration of AASL’s School Library Month.
As an advocate for storytelling and an outspoken critic of censorship, Reynolds is the perfect person to headline Banned Books Week 2021, which has the theme, “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.” For young people in particular, books offer both shared and differently lived experiences that help them develop empathy and understand themselves and their world. In turn, censorship isolates us from each other by narrowing our view of the world.
“I’m excited about being the inaugural Honorary Chair for Banned Books Week,” said Reynolds. “More importantly, I’m excited about this year’s theme, which is so simple, yet so powerful. What does it mean when we say, ‘Books unite us?’ It means that books are the tethers that connect us culturally. 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.”
Since it was founded in 1982, Banned Books Week has highlighted the value of free and open access to information by drawing attention to the attempts to remove books and other materials from libraries, schools, and bookstores. Products to celebrate this year’s “Books Unite Us” theme can be found on the ALA Store and ALA Graphics Gift Shop.
ALA’s list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books includes a greater number of books on racial justice this year, highlighting a growing trend toward attempts to censor stories by and about Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. Further, several state legislatures are considering laws that would ban or penalize classroom instruction or the use of materials related to antiracism and social justice, negatively impacting the availability of books by Reynolds and other authors addressing these issues.
“To censor a book is to damage the framework in which we live,” said Reynolds. “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.”
Visit ala.org/bbooks or follow Banned Books Week on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram to get the latest updates about the annual celebration. Anyone can also reach out to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom for support and assistance with fighting book challenges and other attempts to remove library or school materials. Anyone can also report censorship attempts to OIF via its online Challenge Reporting form.