Celebrating Banned Books Week

by Alicia Rudnicki, Library Mix

Ah, autumn! The foliage changing colors. The friendly bonfires at homecoming celebrations. The unfriendly bonfires that some people would like to fuel with books they think we shouldn’t read. Ah, Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week began in 1982 and is always held the last week of September. This year it runs from September 26 through October 3. Its purpose is to encourage intellectual freedom, particularly the liberty to read and to choose what we read.

This week, check your local library for Banned Books Week activities. But when the week is over, consider ways to continue protecting your freedom to read.

Banned books club?
Here is a simple idea for a year-round protest of those who would like to censor books in our schools and libraries: Form your own “Banned Book of the Month Club.” It doesn’t matter if you are the only member.
Each month, select an endangered book to read—one that people have tried to ban from library bookshelves and classrooms. Then discuss it with others and encourage them to read it.

I’m going to start by rereading Harper Lee’s lovely, melancholy To Kill a Mockingbird, which is a coming-of-age story about fighting against racial prejudice and injustice. Many cities have chosen it in recent years for their “one book, one city” programs, and it is Denver’s 2009 choice.

Banned and challenged titles range from picture books to bestsellers. Click here for the list of the “most challenged” books in 2008.

A “challenge” is an attempt by an individual or group to have a book removed from a school or public library. A “banned” book is one that has actually been removed from the shelves due to a challenge.

Reporting a challenge
One book that has received lots of attention due to being challenged and banned in various places around the nation is Tango Makes Three, a picture book that details the true story of how two male penguins partnered to hatch an egg and raise Tango, a female penguin.

According to the American Library Association (ALA), the challenge problem is much larger than can be quantified, because many challenges go unreported.To learn how to report a challenged book, visit the ALA online.

ALA has also produced some videos to demonstrate why banning books is not a good idea. Two are embedded below.

For more info:
“Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read,” American Library Association
“America’s Most Dangerous Librarians: Meet the radical bookworms who fought the Patriot Act and won”

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