It is time for that annual American anti-censorship celebration known as Banned Books Week. Hosted by the American Library Association, Banned Books Week "highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States."
Banned Books Week is something that is near and dear to my heart. I write about banned books at least twice a year, once during this week and once during the Canadian equivalent, Freedom To Read Week in February. Misty at Book Rat says what is the at heart of my personal view on banning books.
Whether you like these books or hate them, remember that's your decision to make for yourself, but it's NOT your decision to make for me.
I don't want anyone to ban me from reading a book anymore than I want someone to force me to read one. I fully acknowledge that you may not want your child to read a book. As a parent that is your right. For me it just doesn't follow that someone can decide what every child in a school or community gets to read, or rather what they aren't allowed to read.
Every now and then I encounter someone who seriously expresses surprise that we still need events like Banned Books Week and Freedom to Read week. We do. News stories and blog posts about recent book challenges pass through my feed reader and twitter street every week.
For example, in mid-September author Ellen Hopkins found not only her books pulled from the library but her author visit was cancelled just days before it was to happen after a parent demanded her books be pulled from the shelves of the library. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the books, they are about drug addiction and Hopkins pulls from real life. Her daughter was addicted to methamphetamines. Simon and Schuster has asked her earlier to write a manifesto for Banned Books Week. This is the last stanza.
Torch every book.
Burn every page.
Char every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.
The school librarian in this case was able to set up an off-site author session so Hopkins got her visit to the community in.
Banning books from school libraries does little to prevent people from reading these books. If anything it's as Pink Picks says: "To me, banning a book is just such a brilliant way of acknowleging its power and encouraging young people to read it."
Have you ever tried to keep a teenager from doing something? You are just asking for rebellion. When it comes to books some of us never get over that rebellion. Reading is Sexy. has issued herself a personal reading challenge for Banned Books Week.
BlogHer Member Kristen M from We Be Reading says that if you want to know what a banned book looks like just look at her high school reading list and offers some encouraging words for those up-and-coming banned books readers.
These are just a few of the banned books and authors that I have read over the years. I didn't love all of them but I survived the encounters without becoming a Satan-worshipping, foul-mouthed degenerate. Go figure.
Like we handle everything that life throws at our children, we need to handle books wisely -- to read to our children when they are young, explain stories in age-appropriate language that they can understand, to read alongside them when they're older, to discuss what they read, quiz them, challenge them, teach them. That is the beauty of books. I'm less frightened by what my son might learn from a book than by the prospect of a world that decides for him what knowledge he is allowed to access.
This week pick up a banned book. Read it. Maybe you'll read it to yourself, maybe you'll read it with your family. Keep ideas, even ones that you maybe don't agree with, from being silenced.
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