Let Freedom Read - Banned Books Week 2023

September 22, 2023
SDSU Student Read Out

What is the SDSU Student Read Out and how can I participate?

Join other SDSU students, staff, and faculty to show your support for the right to read and to oppose censorship and book bans. Select a favorite banned book and read a short passage aloud. You can sign up ahead of time or just show up to participate! Don’t want to read? Come listen, get a bookmark and make a button!

Show up and Let Freedom Read!
Wednesday, October 4
noon to 1 p.m.

Lee and Frank Goldberg Courtyard,
Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union

In addition, take the Pledge to Let Freedom Read to let your support be counted!

What is Banned Books Week?

"Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read and spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. For 40 years, this annual event has brought together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship."
                                                      – American Library Association

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Banned Books?

Book challenges and bans primarily target public or school libraries. 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. They are attempts to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. Challenges may or may not result in the banning of the books in question. In many areas, books are being removed from libraries on the mere threat or anticipation of a challenge, meaning that no one has access to that material. Self-censorship out of fear of others' actions can be just as harmful as any outside challenge or book ban."

The American Library Association, which tracks book challenges and bans each year, reports a 20% increase in the number of challenged and banned books between 2022 and 2023 alone. This is a rising threat to the freedom to read. 

Why Are Book Bans Problematic?

Book banning limits what students can learn and what teachers can teach.
Libraries even the playing field by providing access to all books to everyone, regardless of the race, social background, or economic circumstances; taking books out of libraries means taking them out of the hands of people who can’t afford to buy their own copies.

  • Book banning frequently targets efforts for diversity, equity and inclusion. Targeted books often feature subjects or characters for gender, sexuality, racial, cultural, religious identities.
  • We can trust individuals to make their own decisions about what they read and believe.
  • Banning books limits access to new ideas. Without new ideas, society cannot move forward.
  • Removing and banning books from public libraries is a slippery slope to government censorship and the erosion of our country's commitment to freedom of expression.

Are Book Bans Only Happening In States Like Texas And Florida?

No. While efforts to ban books from school and public libraries in Texas, Florida, Utah, and other parts of the United States have received great attention, there have also been local efforts to restrict access to books. For example:

In June, during Pride Month, protestors in Rancho Penasquitos checked out nearly all of the books on a Pride Month display in order to keep others from reading them.

Last year the Ramona school district rejected a state-endorsed social studies curriculum that includes material on gay rights

What Books Are Most Frequently Challenged or Banned?

According to the American Library Association, these are the top 13 most frequently challenged books in 2022. 

1. Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
Challenged for: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit

2. All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson
Challenged for: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit

3. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Challenged for: depiction of sexual abuse, EDI content, claimed to be sexually explicit

4. Flamer by Mike Curato
Challenged for: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit

5. (tie) Looking for Alaska by John Green
Challenged for: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit

5. (tie) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Challenged for: depiction of sexual abuse, LGBTQIA+ content, drug use, profanity, claimed to be sexually explicit

7. Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison
Challenged for: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit

8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Challenged for: profanity, claimed to be sexually explicit

9. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
Challenged for: depictions of abuse, claimed to be sexually explicit

10. (tie) A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Challenged for: claimed to be sexually explicit

10. (tie) Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Challenged for: drug use, claimed to be sexually explicit

10. (tie) Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Challenged for: profanity, claimed to be sexually explicit

10. (tie) This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson
Challenged for: LGBTQIA+ content, providing sexual education, claimed to be sexually explicit

You can find lists of other challenged books from previous years on the ALA’s website. Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of challenged and banned books

Can I Check Out Banned Books From The University Library?

San Diego State University does not ban books. If the library has the book in circulation, anyone with circulation privileges may check it out. To find out if the library has a book you are interested in, go to the library website homepage, enter the title in the search box, and the follow the links to locate the book. For the books listed above, the links to the catalog page are already included.

To learn more about how books (and other materials) are selected for your use at SDSU see our Collection Development Policy

What Can I Do To Combat Book Banning?

The Unite Against Book Bans website has a toolkit for political advocacy against book bans. Steps they recommend are: 

  • Contact decision makers such as local, state and federal politicians to express your concern about book bans. Petitions that express the view of many people can have a large impact.
  • Contact local media to alert them to efforts to challenge or ban books. Or write a letter to the editor to express your concern.
  • Mobilize your community to speak out against efforts to ban books.
  • Use social media tools to raise awareness of the issue.
  • Read and talk about books, including those that have been challenged or banned. 

Where Can I Learn More?

The American Library Association has extensive information about book banning efforts. They have also created the site Unite Against Book Bans with information you can use to advocate against book bans. 

The San Diego Public Library has information and events surrounding Banned Book Week.

There was a recent hearing before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

California Governor Gavin Newsom's statement California Bans Book Bans and Textbook Censorship in Schools.

Library deans of the California State University system declare The Freedom to Read is Essential to the Mission of the California State University.

Here are some recent news articles with additional information:

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