Thursday, September 25, 2014

Banned Book Week 2014

Banned Books Week, the annual celebration of your right to read, is upon us! This week, from September 21st to the 27th, libraries all over the United States have been celebrating and promoting your right to read! A banned book is a book whose content has been actively removed from the book stores, a school's curriculum, or has been challenged in libraries. Different types of people and groups of all persuasions and beliefs have attempted to ban or challenge books. As the American Library Association states, "challenges are often motivated by a desire to protect children from 'inappropriate' sexual content or 'offensive' language. The following were the top three reasons cited for challenging materials as reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom:
  1. the material was considered to be 'sexually explicit' 
  2. the material contained 'offensive language'
  3. the materials was 'unsuited to any age group'."
While these motives are well-intentioned, it still does not give someone the right to tell another group of people that they can or can not have access to that book. It is a basic violation of a person's First Amendment rights.

Intellectual freedom and censorship is a subject I feel very strongly about, and I always enjoy a good conversation with students and parents (which happens often when you work in libraries) about content and open access to books. Parents often assume that, as librarians, we will automatically deem books appropriate or inappropriate for their child and exclude their child from reading them. However, we are often forced to point out that each parent or guardian has a different definition of appropriate content.

Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents, and only parents, have the right to restrict the access of their children, and only their children, to library resources. Yet, I encourage parents to let their children explore the world through the safety of books. Parents reading a book alongside their child can have an open discussion about the issues displayed within that book. This dialogue can teach critical thinking and evaluation skills that are necessary, not only in school but in the real world. This is what Banned Books Week celebrates.

The display I created for Banned Books Week

Here are a few of my favorite banned books (and why they were banned!):
1. The Hunger Games... banned for being anti-family (huh? the whole reason she went into the games was to protect her SISTER), violence, and language.
2. To Kill a Mockingbird...banned for dealing with racial inequality and rape.
3. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl... banned for being "a real downer." Well, the Holocaust was a pretty horrific event.
4. Eleanor & Park...banned for being vulgar and containing adult subject matter. Eleanor's step father is verbally abusive and her unstable home life is a major part of this book.
5. The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh...banned for promoting Nazism (??) and Pooh's lack of pants has been seen as immoral.

Other banned books include Little House on the Prairie, Bridge to Terabithia, and the Captain Underpants series. Remember that censorship is more than a parent deciding what is right for their child; censorship is someone trying to dictate what is right for all children (and adults, too). Intellectual freedom is important for all of us!

How are you celebrating Banned Books Week?

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