Friday, September 28, 2012

Celebrate the Power of Literature and Read a Banned Book

Banned Books Week is Sept. 30 – Oct. 6

The Freedom to Read means that you are free to read whatever you like. Taking away someone else's freedom by trying to ban a book makes no sense. If you object, don't read it, but don't take away something that someone else may need or enjoy. We are the most diverse nation on earth, and as such we should respect each other and our differences. Saying someone can't read a book because you object to the content is like saying someone else can't have a slice of cake because you're on a diet.

Did you know that one of the most banned children's books is In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak? It's because Max is nude. The Harry Potter series comes under attack all the time because not everyone supports the idea of witches and wizards, even if they are fictional. There are lists of banned picture books and I just don't understand it. Where's Waldo??? Really?

It amazes me that we have to have a 30th anniversary for Banned Books Week. As someone who believes in intellectual freedom, I'm sad to say that it seems like things are getting worse. We have television personalities who wish to ban items because it doesn't fit their societal viewpoint, and they get their viewers, many of whom would ignore the school/library/bookstore under any other circumstances, to issue challenges. How can someone even begin to challenge something they haven't even read?

We are Americans. We fight for freedom, for justice and for truth. Don't deny anyone their freedom just because you don't agree with their choice of reading material. That is unAmerican!

- Adele

Bill Moyers on banning books:

The following press release is from the American Library Association. I think it's important that people see what is being challenged each year:

CHICAGO - What would you do if you went to the library to check out a book, only to find it wasn’t there? Not because it was already checked out, but because someone else didn’t agree with its content and had it removed. According to the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), there were 326 reported attempts to remove materials from libraries in 2011, making this situation all too familiar in some communities across the U.S.

From Sept.30 – Oct. 6, libraries, schools and bookstores from coast to coast will battle censorship and celebrate the freedom to read during Banned Books Week, an annual event highlighting the importance of the First Amendment. Thousands will read from banned or challenged books, speak out and learn about censorship as the nation celebrates the right to choose reading materials without restriction.

During Banned Books Week, we hope to remind Americans that the ability to read, speak, think and express ourselves freely is a right, not a privilege,” said Maureen Sullivan, ALA President. “As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, it’s important to recognize that book banning does exist in this day and age. It’s up to all of us, community residents, librarians, teachers and journalists, to continue to stand up and speak out for the right to read.”

In one case, the Plymouth-Canton school district in Michigan considered banning both Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Graham Swift’s Waterland after complaints from some parents of objectionable content. Both books were eventually allowed to stay on school shelves after a review committee heard from teachers, students and parents in support of the books during public meetings. But, unfortunately, even with the help of outspoken supporters, books are still being removed.
In Illinois, the Erie School Board recently upheld its 2010 decision to ban The Family Book by Todd Parr and its accompanying materials from an elementary school over its LGBT theme. The book was introduced as part of the Ready, Set, Respect! lesson plan endorsed by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) as part of a diversity and tolerance unit in the school. And in the Annville-Cleona School District in Pennsylvania, the award-winning children’s book The Dirty Cowboy, written by Amy Timberlake and illustrated by Adam Rex, was removed from elementary schools because of its illustrative content involving a cartoon cowboy taking his annual bath.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week and thousands will celebrate by participating in special events and exhibits to learn about the power of literature and the harms of censorship. To commemorate this milestone anniversary, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom is coordinating the “50 State Salute to Banned Books Week,” featuring  videos from each state proclaiming the importance of the freedom to read.  And for the second year in a row, the ALA along with the co-sponsors of Banned Books Week, will host a Virtual Read Out on YouTube where participants will be able to proclaim the virtues of their favorite banned books to the world. Past participants have included highly acclaimed and/or frequently challenged authors such as Jay Asher, Judy Blume, Chris Crutcher, Whoopi Goldberg, Lauren Myracle and many more.

Restricting student access to books in schools is nothing new, but in the age of the Internet, legitimate, educational websites and academically useful social networking tools in schools and school libraries are being overly restricted and filtered more than ever. In an effort to raise awareness, the ALA’s American Association of School Libraries (AASL), has designated one day during Banned Books Week as Banned Websites Awareness Day – Wednesday, Oct. 3– and is asking school librarians and other educators to promote an awareness of how overly restrictive filtering affects student learning.

Also, many bookstores, schools and libraries celebrating Banned Books Week will showcase selections from the ALA OIF’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2011. The list is released each spring and provides a snapshot of book removal attempts in the U.S. The Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2011 reflects a range of themes and consists of the following titles:

1)      ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
2)      The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
Nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
3)      The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins
Anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
4)     My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
Nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
5)      The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
6)      Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
7)      Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
8)      What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
Nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
9)      Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
10)  To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Offensive language; racism

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores.  It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. In 2011, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Freedom to Read Foundation, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Council of Teachers of English, and PEN American Center also signed on as sponsors.

For more information on Banned Books Week, book challenges and censorship, please visit the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom’s Banned Books website at, or

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