It’s time again for Banned Books Week, that annual celebration of one’s freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted book bannings and challenges across the United States. Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for this week-long celebration. So if you love reading and you believe in the first amendment, join the hundreds of libraries, book stores, and literary and human rights organization for this year’s celebration.

Here’s what you can do:

Recommend a Banned Book

Several months ago, PEN America asked PEN Members to take part in a virtual Global Book Swap, where novelists, poets, translators, and editors from around the world exchanged their favorite foreign-language books. The outcome was published in PEN America 14: The Good Books and selections have been posted on The Daily PEN American.

For the 2011 Banned Books Week, we are now asking PEN Members to recommend s single book, banned or challenged in the United States or abroad, and to write about the influence it has had on their lives as writers and readers. To find out what’s been banned, check out the American Library Association’s top 100 Banned Books from 2000–2009, the Banned and Challenged Classics list, or the top 10 most banned books by year between 2000–2010.

Join the Virtual Read-out

Since 2000, the ALA has hosted Read-outs—a continuous reading of banned and challenged books—in Chicago, IL. In lieu of a physical Read-out this year, the ALA along with fellow cosponsors of Banned Books Week will host a virtual one where readers from around the world will be able to participate. Just record a video of yourself reading from your favorite banned or challenged book and upload it to the ALA’s dedicated Banned Books Week YouTube Channel, where videos of challenged authors and other celebrities will be posted in the coming days. More information about this year’s Read-out is available here.

Spread the Word

Tweet, FB, Tumblr, blog, and even Myspace this post. Also visit the ALA’s Banned Books Week web site to learn how you can download a badge for your web site or blog, collect materials to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, and find activities and ideas to celebrate Banned Books Week in your community.

Check Out This Year’s Top Ten Most Banned or Challenged Books

1. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language, racism, religious viewpoint, sex education, sexually explicit, violence, unsuited to age group

3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit

4. Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
Reasons: drugs, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit

5. The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: sexaully explicit, violence, unsuited to age group

6. Lush, by Natasha Friend
Reasons: drugs, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group

7. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

8. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich
Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint

9. Revolutionary Voices edited by Amy Sonnie
Reasons: homosexuality, sexually explicit

10. Twilight (series), by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence, unsuited to age group