Book bans and censorship silence voices and threaten the freedom to read—and they're on the rise. If you believe in the freedom to read, here's a chance to make your voice heard.

Here are the facts: The American Library Association (ALA) reported that last year, the United States saw the highest number of attempted book bans since the ALA started keeping records more than 20 years ago. Preliminary ALA data for 2023 shows we are again on track for a record number of censorship attempts, including a higher number of challenges to public libraries. The majority of the banned or challenged books are for young people and feature LGBTQ+ voices and people of color.

At The New York Public Library, we believe in the importance of representing all voices, especially those who have been historically underrepresented. We stand with the American Library Association, who have this year reissued and reaffirmed their landmark "Freedom to Read" Statement, first published in response to rising censorship efforts during the McCarthy era of the 1950s. The words of the statement are as powerful as ever today: "We believe that free communication is essential to the preservation of a free society and a creative culture. We believe that these pressures toward conformity present the danger of limiting the range and variety of inquiry and expression on which our democracy and our culture depend." (Read the statement in full.)

Contest Prompt: Why Is the Freedom to Read Important to You?

At a time of rising book bans, we invite all teens, wherever in the United States you live, to make your voices heard by answering this essential question in essays and personal stories of 500 to 1,500 words. You may want to consider the following: How have book bans affected you and how have you stood against them? How have books and reading shaped your identity? Why is it important in your community that we share the right to read freely? You don't need to answer these questions—please feel free to interpret the prompt however you like.

We are awarding a grand prize of $500 to the best essay, with 20 more winners receiving $250 each. All winning entries will be published in NYPL's Teen Voices magazine, which will be available in print in select locations and online. At The New York Public Library, we believe that what teens have to say matters.

Enter Now!

See all terms and conditions. The Freedom to Read National Teen Writing Contest is presented in partnership with 826 National.