Saturday, October 1, 2016

Protect Your Freedom To Read!

This week, September 25 to October 1, is Banned Book Week in the United States. Banned Book Week began in 1982 and aims to raise awareness about the problem of book censorship. Although banning books might sound like a thing of the past, hundreds of books are still challenged in libraries and schools across the country, and books continue to be banned in countries around the world.

The American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom gathers information every year on attempts to challenge and restrict books. Although the OIF aims to document all instances, studies actually suggest that for every reported challenge, four or five challenges go unreported. Too often that means that those challenges have succeeded. Thankfully attempts to restrict books are still stopped by those individuals willing to take a stand to protect our freedom to read, whether that be a librarian, teacher, student or community member.

The focus of this year's Banned Book Week is diversity. In an article for the New York Times, the director of the OIF, James LaRue, commented on the recent shifts in the type of challenges which are more frequently "focused on issues of diversity -- things that are by or about people of color, or LGBT, or disabilities, or religious and cultural minorities." Too often the books that are challenged are those that offer a different viewpoint than our own, or that of the majority. If diverse books are allowed to be banned it limits our ability to understand the world and it's complexity.

"Banning books gives us silence when we need speech. It closes our ears when we need to listen. It makes us blind when we need sight." - Stephen Chbosky

If we allow books to be censored we limit not only our freedom but an essential part of our education. Many of the frequently banned books are those being taught in schools across the country. Some of my favorite books from childhood and into adulthood have their place on the list of commonly banned or challenged books. Those books taught me what it means to be a good person and what it means to have sympathy for others. Those books taught me that good and evil exist in all of us and the world is not always black and white. Those books taught me to question the world around me.

Last year I made a video talking about Banned Book week, but this year I wanted to share some of my favorite frequently banned and challenged books. The list includes only a few out of the many important, thought provoking, and diverse banned books, and I hope to read plenty more in the future.

Looking for Alaska by John Green (reason for challenge: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group)

The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling (reason for challenge: anti-family, occult/Satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence)

Persepolis by Marjane Satropi (reason for challenge: gambling, offensive language, religious viewpoint, and graphic depictions)

The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger (reason for challenge: offensive language, unsuited for age group)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey (reason for challenge: violence, offensive language, and sexually explicit)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (reason for challenge: anti-family, content regarding alcohol, bullying and violence, racism, sexually explicit, and offensive language)

Ordinary People by Judith Guest (reason for challenge: sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (reason for challenge: drugs, alcohol, and smoking, offensive language, homosexuality, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group)

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (reason for challenge: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, and violence)

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (reason for challenge: unsuited for age group, anti-family, offensive language, smoking, alcohol, and violence)

A Light In The Attic by Shel Silverstein (reason for challenge: supernatural themes, encourages messiness and disobedience, and unsuited for age group)

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (reason for challenge: offensive language, racism, and unsuited for age group)

As long as there are books, there will be people trying to control them. The most important thing you can do is read. If you know of any challenges to books in your community, don't forget to take a stand and report the challenge. Help protect your freedom to read!


For more information follow the links throughout the post.

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