Monday, September 22, 2014

It's Banned Books Week!

The freedom to read whatever we want is something many of us take for granted. That's why there is an annual awareness campaign called Banned Books Week. 
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Begun in 1982 by Judith Krug, a First Amendment and library activist, Banned Books Week takes place every September and is sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA). The campaign goes beyond libraries, however. It also promotes the freedom to read in schools and bookstores all across the country.

"By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship," according to the ALA website. "While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available."

Books tend to be banned because someone in the local community, often the parent of a school-aged child, objects to their presence in a school or library because of their content, which this person deems inappropriate for children. Objectionable content often has to do with language, sexual references or imagery, representations of homosexuality, allusions to witchcraft, and more.

However, before a book is banned, it is first challenged. In response to librarians facing book or material challenges, the Intellectual Freedom Committee stated in 1986 that challenges can come in the form of 1) an expression of concern; 2) an oral complaint; 3) a written complaint; 4) a public attack; or 5) outright censorship, all because someone objects to the book's content.

Books challenged on the basis of their content have included The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; The Color Purple by Alice Walker; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey; And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnel; the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; and Forever by Judy Blume.

Despite the opposition to these books' content, they have continued to remain available. "This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read," according to the ALA on its website.

Banned Books Week is September 21 to 27, 2014. On the occasion of this year's celebration, express your freedom to read by proudly reading a banned book.

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