The Right to Read
We’re celebrating banned books this week! This is the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, which was launched in 1982 after a surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. In the past 30 years, more than 11,300 books have been challenged due to complaints including offensive language, nudity, religious viewpoints and violence.
If challenges are most frequently made by concerned parents and other adults, why do we celebrate the freedom to read these books? I like what the American Library Association writes:
Books usually are challenged with the best intentions—to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information. Censorship can be subtle, almost imperceptible, as well as blatant and overt, but, nonetheless, harmful.
Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents—and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to library resources.
My kids are still young, so I can’t speak to whether I will censor what they read down the road, though I have to assume that I won’t. When I was in elementary school, I read far above my grade level, and at that time, there weren’t vast numbers of books written expressly for middle and young adult readers like there are today. Once I outgrew Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary, my mom started sharing books with me. Sometimes these books were way over my head thematically, like those written by her favorite author at the time, Anne Tyler. Some were classics, like The Color Purple or Gone with the Wind, both frequently challenged. But I remember discussing them with her, asking her questions and having conversations about the topics I didn’t understand. That’s why I believe in celebrating children’s right to read freely. If they are surrounded by caring parents, friends, librarians and teachers with whom they can discuss and debate these works, why limit their exposure to such terrific books as Harry Potter, The Call of the Wild, To Kill a Mockingbird, Bridge to Terabithia, and A Wrinkle in Time, to name just a few on the illustrious list?
We’re sharing some of our favorite frequently banned and challenged books on our Facebook page all this week, and Friday we’ll feature those don’t-miss picks from our book blogger panel. If you’d like to read more about Banned Books Week, our friends at Everyday eBook shared seven of their favorite banned books here.
And you won’t want to miss this “virtual readout,” created by Arizona independent bookstore Bookmans! I love this video.
We’d love to hear from you. What are your favorite banned books? Why do you think it’s important to promote the freedom to read?
*image found here