September 25 marks the beginning of Banned Books Week.
This is an annual event sponsored by the American Library Association that celebrates the freedom to read and the importance of our First Amendment rights. Held during the last week in September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information and stresses the importance of making all viewpoints available no matter how unorthodox or unpopular the viewpoints may be.
This intellectual freedom concept is the foundation of your public library.
One activity central to Banned Books Week is featuring books that have been banned or targets of attempted banning.
Just in this last decade, American libraries were faced with 4,312 reported challenges. (A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness).
Let me challenge you.
From this list of books, can you identify the titles that have been censored, banned or challenged?
If you guessed all of them, you would be correct.
Ironically, Fahrenheit 451 is about censorship but in 1998, the book was removed from the required reading list in Foxworth, Mississippi because a parent complained about some expletives.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble was challenged in numerous states because the characters are portrayed as animals and the police were represented by pigs.
Between 2000 and 2009, the Harry Potter series tops the list followed by The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier and Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, which are perennial favorites.
What next? The dictionary? Oh, wait, that too.
In 1978 the American Heritage Dictionary was banned in Missouri, because it contained 39 "objectionable" words, and in 1987, it was banned in Anchorage, Alaska for similar reasons.
Fortunately, in the majority of cases, books that are challenged are not banned, thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers and members of the community who believe in our First Amendment rights and the power of literature.
Banned Books Week draws attention to the danger that exists when restraints are placed on our rights to read what we want and find the information we need.
Your librarians are dedicated to protecting those rights. So go to your library and exercise your right to read!
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