September 28, 2020
September 27 through October 3 is Banned Books Week! Why celebrate banned books? Well, picture if you will, a curious mind, seeking a book. But not just any book—a book that has been banned. This book is nowhere to be found. It’s not in the school library, it’s not in the city library, and it can’t be found online. Why? A group of “concerned citizens” decided the material was inappropriate and banned it. No, we’re not in the Twilight Zone or a dystopian story; we’re in the 21st century, and this happens more often than you would think!
Books are challenged and banned every day. This is the very heart of censorship—the curtailing of Intellectual Freedom. Libraries champion Intellectual Freedom and consider it a cornerstone of a democratic society along with freedom of speech. It’s even part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. When we are free to read, study, entertain ideas, speculate, and ultimately express our own views, we are empowered.
So, why are some books banned? Reasons have included arguments that material is inappropriate for a particular age group, is controversial, contains sexual content, conflicts with a religious or moral view, and many other reasons. When I was in school working on my Master of Library Science degree, I remember one professor stating, “A good library collection has something to offend everyone!”
Banned Books Week came about in the 1980s in response to a Supreme Court case ruling that the First Amendment limits school officials’ ability to remove challenged library materials. Banned Books Week draws attention to censorship and celebrates our freedom to read, giving a spotlight to books targeted for removal or restriction. This event brings together the entire book community—readers, booksellers, publishers, libraries, teachers, and more—in shared support of freedom to seek and express.
Why read a banned book? It can be very interesting to read a previously banned book along with the historical context impacting its reception or rejection! A few books that have historically been banned or challenged include:
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- The Giver
- Lord of the Flies
- Animal Farm
- Fahrenheit 451
- The Handmaid’s Tale
- The Catcher in the Rye
- Harry Potter series
- A Wrinkle in Time (This was one of the first books I loved as a kid, which set me squarely on the path of loving science fiction for life!)
These books are widely regarded as classics now. Can you imagine not being able to read the Harry Potter series today? Check out the American Library Association’s webpage on banned and challenged books and the Intellectual Freedom statement from the Library Bill of rights.
Which banned books have you come to cherish? Read a banned book today and be a rebel!
Library-By-Mail Readers’ Advisor
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