By Seija Rankin
April 13, 2021 at 09:00 AM EDT
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The 2021 Banned Books Week is getting some major star power: New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds will serve as the inaugural Honorary Chair, and EW has all the exclusive details.

Since it began in 1982, the literary program has worked to bring awareness to the censorship and removal of books from libraries, schools, and bookstores, using special events, programming, and outreach. This year, Reynolds will preside over (and headline) the festivities, which will center around the theme "Books unite us, censorship divides us."

"Books can be the tethers to connect human beings," Reynolds says in a video commemorating his new role. "They are tools we use to ground us in our humanity, to convince us we're not actually all that different, and the things that are different should be celebrated because they are what makes this tapestry of life."

Reynolds, who has authored more than a dozen books for young people, including the cultural sensation Stamped (co-written by Ibram X. Kendi), also speaks about the hazards that come along with villainizing or devaluing certain subject matters. "Any time we all off narratives, we're not getting the whole picture of the world in which we live," he says. "We run the risk of being harmful, of navigating the world in a way that is closed off-and close-minded. To censor a book is to damage the framework in which we live.

Reynolds is widely considered to be one of the most important authors of our time — he's a multiple National Book Award finalist and has received a Newberry Honor, several Coretta Scott King Awards, and an NAACP Image Award. Yet he, too, has been the subject of book censorship. Two of his works (Stamped and All American Boys) are on the American Library Association's list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Book of 2020. He'll use this experience during his work as Honorary Chair to "make sure all books have a space on the shelves and the opportunities to live in the psyches of our children."

Banned Books Week will take place from Sept. 26 to Oct. 2.

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