Banned Books Week
Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. It highlights the value of free and open access to information.
Books that are featured during Banned Books Week are all books that have been removed or restricted from multiple libraries across the United States, both in public libraries and in schools.
See the display of banned and restricted books, check one out this week and get a free button or bookmark while supplies last. Also check out the special posts about banned books on Facebook during the week.
Why do I care about Banned Books?
Banned Books Week is Sept 30 – Oct 6. More than 11,000 book challenges have been recorded, including 326 in 2011. A challenge is a formal, written complaint requesting materials be removed from library shelves or school curriculum.
What books have been challenged in our country in the past? The Adventures of Huckleberry, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, Of Mice and Men, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Lord of the Rings are a few classics that have repeatedly been challenged. Others challenged in recent years are The Hunger Games (series), The Color of Earth, ttyl, The Chocolate War, Twilight, and My Sister’s Keeper.
Challenges are not simply a point of view…they are an attempt to remove materials from public use, thereby restricting access to others. Most public libraries in our nation have a policy reinforcing the idea of unrestricted library access to information and ideas. The Independence Public Library has a Censorship Policy which states: “The Independence Public Library recognizes that censorship is an individual matter. While individuals are free to reject for themselves materials of which they do not approve, they do not have the right to restrict the freedom to read to other patrons of the library system. The disapproval of an item by an individual or a group shall not be a means of denying that item to other individuals or groups, if by library selection standards it belongs in the library's collection.”
One of the most basic freedoms in a democratic society is the freedom to read. Banned Books Week reminds us that while every book is not intended for every reader, each of us has the right to decide for ourselves what to read. With children, parents should take responsibility in the matter of what their children should or should not read. This provides a good opportunity to discuss issues and why you may or may not want your child to read or view a particular book or DVD.
We have heard about the dangers of restricting ideas and information in a society…for example, the period of burning books in Nazi Germany of any materials with an “un-German Spirit.” It is reported that 4,100 publications being banned and burned preceded the brutal and horrific treatment of the Jewish people. I have read that among the books burned in 1933 were the works of Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, who penned the words, “Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too.” Other regions, countries, and governments have banned such books as the Bible, the Diary of Anne Frank, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Doctor Zhivago for reasons such as the desire to remove Christian ideas/Christianity, the favorable portrayal of Jewish people, anti-slavery content, and criticism of the Bolshevik Party.
American libraries are cornerstones of our democracy. In a 1989 landmark case on freedom of speech, Supreme Court Justice William Brennen wrote, “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”
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 a banned book this week.
For more information about banned and restricted books and Banned Book Week, click here.