As seveneightfive children start a new school year, teachers are inevitably sending out their lists of required readings and parents are purchasing and gathering books. In some cases, classics like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Catcher in the Rye,” and “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” may not be included in the curriculum or available in the school library due to challenges made by parents or administrators.
Since 1990, the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has recorded more than 10,000 book challenges, including 513 in 2008. 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.
The most challenged and/or restricted reading materials have been books for children. However, 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.
In support of the right to choose books freely for ourselves, we support Banned Books Week, September 24 – October 1, 2011. This is a national, annual celebration of our right to access books without censorship. This year’s observance commemorates the most basic freedom in a democratic society -the freedom to read freely- and encourages us not to take this freedom for granted.
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.
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. Of course, a great community resource is our Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library. Check out an old favorite or a banned book, or click here for information to participate in a Virtual Read-Out.
To the left is a great reference book, “Books Challenged or Banned in 2010-2011,” by Robert P. Doyle that the TSCPL will be talking with customers about during Banned Books Week. You’ll find a complete list of banned or challenged books from this past year starting on page 4, with the story providing background as to why it’s on this list.
And Happy Banned Book Week from seveneightfive magazine!
[Article by seveneightfive publisher Kerrice Mapes | Image submitted]