The last week in September is Banned Books Week. What does that mean? Quoting from the American Libraries Website: “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. … Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community – librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types – in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”
As a librarian, it is important to me to be able to stock the library shelves with books which represent many different views and beliefs. In fact, I have a sweatshirt which says, “There is something in my library to offend everyone.” The freedom to read widely and without censorship is one of the hallmarks of democracy, and the good news is that most challenged books remain on the shelves.
What books are challenged in different years demonstrate what our society fears at that time. You can find a list of the ten most challenged books for 2015 here. Most were challenged for some kind of sexuality, either explicit sex or what the challengers considered inappropriate, such as homosexuality, or a religious viewpoint differing from the challenger. I worked in the libraries of Christian universities for much of my professional life, and our books most challenged were those which expressed a religious viewpoint differing from Christianity. Censorship there often consisted of those from off campus either writing their opinions in these books or simply removing the book from the shelf and carrying it away. There were some books we had to buy over and over again because they kept getting stolen. Ironic isn’t it.
So celebrate your freedom to read this week. Find out what books have been challenged or banned and read one!
Quotes about banned books and censorship
I hate it that Americans are taught to fear some books and some ideas as though they were diseases…–Kurt Vonnegut
There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.–Ray Bradbury
A word to the unwise. Torch every book. Char every page. Burn every word to ash. Ideas are incombustible. And therein lies your real fear.–Ellen Hopkins
What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.–Salman Rushdie
Libraries should be open to all – except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.–John F. Kennedy
If you didn’t want your kids to eat candy, would you forbid all their friends to eat it too? If you didn’t want your kids to stay up late, would you forbid all their friends to stay up too? If you didn’t want your kids to read Twilight, would you forbid all their friends to read it too?–Sonya Sones
Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.–Laurie Halse Anderson
Having the freedom to read and the freedom to choose is one of the best gifts my parents ever gave me.–Judy Blume
Banning books gives us silence when we need speech. It closes our ears when we need to listen. It makes us blind when we need sight.–Stephen Chbosky
The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.–Oscar Wilde
Yes, books are dangerous. They should be dangerous – they contain ideas.–Pete Hautman
Banning books is just another form of bullying. It’s all about fear and an assumption of power. The key is to address the fear and deny the power.–James Howe
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