So, once again, grad school gets between me and the blogosphere. But I couldn't let Banned Books Week end without putting my two cents in. In case you weren't already aware, this past week was Banned Books Week, a week set aside by the American Library Association to celebrate our freedom to read and highlight the continued presence of censorship in our world. My first encounters with Banned Books Week were in high school when I helped create the library programming surrounding it. So now, every year in September, I go to the ALA website to check out their newly published lists of banned or challenged books and think. I think about how passionately I feel about intellectual freedom and freedom of information access. And I think about how complicated and complex the situation surrounding each challenge or attempted banning can be. And I think about way great books can be denied to readers because of misunderstanding or fear.
But let's get the basics taking care of first. What's a challenged book and what's a banned book? The ALA website states that a challenge is "an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based on the objections of a person or group." A book becomes banned if the challenge succeeds in getting it pulled from the shelves or from the curriculum. Thanks to the work of teachers, librarians, parents, students, and other passionate people, most challenges never become bannings.
The ALA notes that most books are challenged or banned for a few major reasons. The material is usually thought to be "sexually explicit," to contain "offensive language," or be "unsuited to any age group." Most often, people challenge books out of a wish to protect their children or minors in general from materials they deem inappropriate or dangerous. While I understand the urge to protect children (and I really do!), there are lines that our First Amendment just won't let us cross. While a parent has the complete right to control what his or her own child reads, he or she does not have the right to control what other people's children can read.
So, every year across the country, teachers and librarians work with students, parents, and others to stand up for our First Amendment rights--and the rights of children and youth to access information. Learn more about how you can get involved and check out the lists of recently or most challenged and banned books today at the ALA's website. I am proud to say that I read banned books and so here are just a few of my favorites:
His Dark Materials (series) by Phillip Pullman
In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Forever by Judy Blume
The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
So even though Banned Books Week is over, the fight to protect the freedom to read and to think is never over. Go read a banned book today! Research how else you can get involved in advocating for this issue!