The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) will kick off its 2022 Banned Books Week on Sept. 18. The 12th annual celebration of the fight against censorship will be centered around Alex Gino’s heartwarming contemporary novel, "Melissa."

"Melissa," which was previously titled “George,” is a Stonewall Award winner and a Lambda Literary Award winner. The book has faced multiple challenges due to it being centered around a fourth-grade transgender student.

The purpose of Banned Books Week is to honor the freedom of choice for individuals, as well as the freedom to write and read about important cultural topics even when those topics have the power to offend. Common reasons for challenging books include: LQBTQIA+ themes, anti-police rhetoric, religious viewpoints, profanity, topics concerning race and many more. Parents are most likely to be the initiators of challenges against books.

Here are some of the ways you can participate:

Crazy Free Books 2022

In the fifth year of this program, readers can email CALS for a free copy of "Melissa" and/or “Charlotte’s Web.” Secure two out of 100 total free copies on a first come, first served basis until the books have all been claimed. Include a name and mailing address in the email. Click here for more free book details.

Writing Contest

Flex your writing prowess with the annual Banned Books Writing Contest. This year's prompts center around true, supportive friendship where one character is daring to achieve something despite a very large obstacle. Entries (only one per Arkansan) are accepted through Sept. 14. The writing contest has one $400 grand prize and one $100 honorable mention prize. Click here for more contest details.

"Charlotte’s Web" Film Screening

At the end of Banned Books Week, enjoy a free screening of the classic children’s book turned film “Charlotte’s Web,” which premiered in 1973. The screening will be Saturday, Sept. 24, at 2 p.m.

For more info about Banned Books Week, head to the CALS website.