Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Banned Books Week

We're mid-way through Banned Books Week, an initiative launched by librarians and others to celebrate the freedom to read.  Since its inception in 1982, thousands of books have been challenged in schools and libraries; religious views, sexuality, violence, racial slurs, and explicit language are among the most cited reasons for these challenges.  While I may not always agree with the content of a book or the characters' choices or actions, one thing I cannot stand is the censorship of books.  Can you imagine a world where your child didn't get to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?  What Huck learns about himself and about Jim, about slavery, about freedom, is far too important in a young person's life (and an adult's too).  Censoring this type of book because it repeatedly uses a racial slur is just plain wrong.  The racial slur is there for a reason: a) it's how people spoke at the time and in that location and b) it's part of Huck's learning process.

This is but one example, and an old one at that, of books being challenged across the country in our schools and libraries.  Others include: The Harry Potter Series; The Perks of Being a Wallflower; The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things; and more. Books that makes us think, that teach us something about ourselves and our place in the world--those are the kind of books that should endure.

Because of events like Banned Books Week and other organizations, a lot of these books do endure.  Still, on the website listed above is a map of all the challenged books in the United States since 2007 and it's incredible.  I encourage everyone to go read a book that was banned or has been challenged this week or the next and see what all the hubub is about.

(Sidenote: a real surprise for me is that How to Kill a Mockinbird is still on the list of most challenged books.  Poor Scout.  She's had such a rough time already.)

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