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Jason Reynolds Named Inaugural Honorary Chair of Banned Books Week

Photograph of Jason Reynolds
Jason Reynolds (Credit: James J. Reddington)

The Banned Books Week Coalition is proud to announce that 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 All American Boys (with Brendan Kiely), Ghost, Long Way Down, Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, and Stamped (with Ibram X. Kendi). A multiple National Book Award finalist, Reynolds has also received a Newbery Honor, a Printz Honor, an NAACP Image Award, and several Coretta Scott King Award honors. He is currently serving a two-year term as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for the Library of Congress.

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,” says 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. Despite their accolades, Reynolds’s novels aren’t immune from censorship. All American Boys and Stamped, both of which address racism and police brutality, have been challenged repeatedly and are among the American Library Association’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020, an annual list released during National Library Week in early April. ALA’s Top 10 list included other books on racial justice, highlighting a growing trend toward attempts to censor stories by Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. Further, several state legislatures are considering laws that would limit instruction related to antiracism and social justice, negatively impacting the availability of material by Reynolds and other authors addressing these issues.

“To censor a book is to damage the framework in which we live,” adds 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.”

Join Honorary Chair Jason Reynolds to celebrate the ways in which books unite us during Banned Books Week, September 26 – October 2, 2021! The Banned Books Week Coalition is here to support your celebration of reading, with programming ideas, promotional materials, and other resources! Visit bannedbooksweek.org or follow @BannedBooksWeek on Twitter to get the latest Banned Books Week and censorship news.

Learn more about the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020 at ala.org/bbooks/top and the issues facing America’s libraries at ala.org/news/state-americas-libraries-report-2021

ABOUT JASON REYNOLDS

Jason Reynolds is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, a Newbery Award Honoree, a Printz Award Honoree, a two-time National Book Award finalist, a Kirkus Award winner, a two-time Walter Dean Myers Award winner, an NAACP Image Award Winner, and the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors. He’s also the 2020–2021 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His many books include Stamped, When I Was the Greatest, The Boy in the Black Suit, All American Boys (cowritten with Brendan Kiely), As Brave as You, For Every One, the Track series (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu), Look Both Ways, and Long Way Down, which received a Newbery Honor, a Printz Honor, and a Coretta Scott King Honor. He lives in Washington, DC. You can find his ramblings at JasonWritesBooks.com

ABOUT THE BANNED BOOKS WEEK COALITION

The Banned Books Week Coalition is an international alliance of diverse organizations joined by a commitment to increase awareness of the annual celebration of the freedom to read. The Coalition seeks to engage various communities and inspire participation in Banned Books Week through education, advocacy, and the creation of programming about the problem of book censorship.

The Banned Books Week Coalition includes American Booksellers Association; American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of University Presses; Authors Guild; Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE); Freedom to Read Foundation; Index on Censorship; National Coalition Against Censorship; National Council of Teachers of English; PEN America; People for the American Way Foundation; and Project Censored. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Banned Books Week also receives generous support from DKT Liberty Project and Penguin Random House.

Website: https://bannedbooksweek.org/

Twitter: @BannedBooksWeek

Instagram: @banned_books_week