As you may or may not know, next week (Sept. 22-28) is the 31st annual Banned Books Week here in the US.
What is Banned Books Week, you ask?
BBW celebrates our freedom to read. To choose for ourselves what books we open and which ones we do not. Now, this may seem a bit silly. Why would anyone want to stop you from reading? What’s the big deal? Well, in many countries, the governments are more controlling. They may ban books that they feel oppose their rule. Even in the 20th century, books were still being banned or challenged in the US on a national level (most often for being ‘obscene’).
However, even today, literature is being challenged on a local level. Often what happens is that one or more parents may not want a book that they view to be offensive to be available to their children through the library or the classroom. Reasons range from offensive language, sexual explicitness, racism, or they find it offensive to their religion.
Books, in their most basic definition, provide information- about other cultures and beliefs, history, society, opinions, science and life. You may not agree with the author’s point of view, but you can see why they hold these views. According to the American Library Association, the purpose of BBW is to, “brings together the entire book community… in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”
Now, you may wonder how you can go about celebrating BBW. The answer is simple- read. Pick up a book that has been challenged, restricted, banned, or that people have attempted to destroy. Read something you might not otherwise. Find an author who you don’t really agree with and try to understand their point of view. You may change your opinion or end up more confident in your different views. Read and take joy in the fact that you can. No one can stop you. You can even take it in a different direction- find a book that you disagree with and don’t read it. Celebrate the fact that no one can force an opposing opinion on you through books. Only you can choose what youread and don’t read.
And don’t forget to spread the word! Many people aren’t aware that books are still being challenged or why. Suggest some titles or authors to them and discuss with them why free access to books is so important.
And if you ever meet someone who wants a book to be banned or restricted, don’t get angry- talk to them. Ask them why they want it taken out of libraries and schools. Try to find an alternate solution that satisfies their freedom to not read and your freedom to read.
I’ve included a list under the, ‘Read More’ (heh, pun) of just a few books that have been banned or challenged (some frequently, some only once) and their reasons. Some of them may surprise you. For more information about BBW, talk to a librarian at your school or local library. They’ll be more than happy to help.
Thank you for your time and happy reading!