Celebrate the Freedom to Read
Banned Books Week is September 26--October 2, 2021
I'm going to step out of Georgian England and talk about something a little more "present day". This week is Banned Books Week and, as a former librarian, I strongly believe that promoting access and stopping censorship are key aspects of serving the public.
Banned Books Week was launched in the 1980s amid an increase in challenges and following a Supreme Court case that ruled that school officials can't ban books in libraries simply because of their content. The American Library Association continues this work in coalition with other groups to celebrate the freedom to read, and to highlight current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools.
The goal is to bring together the entire book community---librarians, publishers, authors, teachers, bloggers, and readers---to support the ability to seek out and express ideas, even ideas that some consider unorthodox.
Books are still challenged and banned today. A challenge means there's been an attempt to restrict or remove a book based on one person or group's objections. Banned means the material was removed. These challenges aren't someone expressing an opinion on a material. It's an attempt to remove it from a library or curriculum and restrict the access of others. Parents certainly have the right and responsibility to restrict the access of their children to a library resource----but their children only.
The most common argument to challenge or ban a book is that children should not be exposed to certain topics in libraries, such as sex, violence, religion, homosexuality, contraception, drug use, and racism. Libraries are not the arbiters of what is not appropriate for an entire community. In fact, books that address these topics often help community members learn a better idea of the world and their place in it, as well as help them see a different points of view.
Reading banned books offers individuals and families a chance to embrace new ideas and celebrate free access to books and information. What is edgy today is tomorrow's classic, and controversial books help people explore complex topics and helps them build empathy.
Books are a means of sparking discussion and learning about different life experiences, and banning a book or restricting its access in a library won't stop these books from being written, won't stop readers from seeking them out, and won't stop the discussion or awareness of these topics.
Here are links to commonly banned books by category compiled by the ALA:
The 86 books on this list include content by or about people of color, LGBT people and/or people with disabilities.
Books unite us, and censorship divides us! Tell me below what banned book you've enjoyed!