30 September 2012

Make Someone Unhappy: Read a Banned Book

I read Banned Books. There, I've written it for the whole world to see.  Some of them I like; some of them I didn't like; but, by gum, I do make an effort to read Banned Books - because as an American citizen, I can!

For 30 years, Librarians and Libraries have been drawing attention to censorship as September turns into October.  Since its inception in 1982, Banned Books Week has reminded us that while not every book is intended for every reader, each of us has the right to decide for ourselves what to read, listen to or view. This year, we celebrate the Freedom to Read whatever we choose, whenever we choose, in whatever format we choose September 30th - October 6th.

Since 1990, the American Library Association's (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has recorded more than 10,000 book challenges. A challenge is a formal, written complaint requesting a book be removed from library shelves or school curriculum. 75% of all challenges are to material in schools or school libraries, and 25% are to material in public libraries. OIF estimates that less than one-quarter of challenges are reported and recorded.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted with removal or restrictions in libraries and schools. While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available.

It is thanks to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, and students that most challenges are unsuccessful and reading materials like "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," "Slaughterhouse Five," the Harry Potter series, and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Alice series,  remain available.

Challenges are not simply an expression of a point of view; on the contrary, they are an attempt to remove materials from public use, thereby restricting the access of others. Even if the motivation to ban or challenge a book is well intentioned, the outcome is detrimental. Censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves. For children, decisions about what books to read should be made by the people who know them best—their parents!

If you'd really like to show your support for the Freedom to Read, join the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out, where readers can declare their freedom to read by uploading videos of themselves reading from their favorite banned/challenged books. The critieria and video submission information is found on the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out page.

American libraries are the cornerstones of our democracy. Libraries are for everyone, everywhere. Because libraries provide free access to a world of information, they bring opportunity to all people. Now, more than ever, celebrate the freedom to read @ your library! Read an old favorite or a new banned book this week.
Click here or here or even here for some suggested titles. 

PS: You can probably find some titles at the Friends Booksale in Waterfront Park this afternoon if you'd like a bit of your money to go through that wonderfully supportive organization of Beaufort County Library.

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