What is a banned book and why do we celebrate it?
This year’s ALA (American Library Association) Banned Books Week is from September 21st – 27th. Our little library has not really celebrated the week in the past, but this year we decided to highlight by pulling some of the books that made the top ten lists of banned books, and displaying them prominently. This has led to more than a few patrons asking why they are banned, or what does it mean when we call a book a “banned” book. So let’s clear up a few things, shall we.
First, what does it mean when we say a book is banned or challenged? According to the ALA website “a challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.”
Second, a book that is called a banned book or that is listed as a challenged book does not mean that it has been banned or challenged by the United States as a whole. It generally means that schools, communities, or libraries are subject to attempts to ban books. Take for instance the most recent example that I have read of a book being banned. The Fault in our Stars, yes that most beloved John Green novel, has been banned in Riverside, CA middle schools for sexual content. Banning books is nothing new, censorship has a long history both in the US and the world. Fortunately for us the commitment of teachers, librarians, parents and students, most challenges are unsuccessful or met with enough counter that the books are still available in some aspect.
Here is an example of a book that was banned, but some community members are fighting back. In Meridian, Idaho they banned The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian from their public schools. In an effort to combat this censorship, teens began handing out free copies, given to them for free by the publisher. While there are many examples of students, libraries and citizens giving away free copies of banned books, the importance is that even when censorship does happen, there are enough people with the right mind to stand up to.
So why do we celebrate Banned Books Week? Well if you are not aware, we here at the Glenolden Library are fans of reading, and believe in your freedom to read. There is an immense difference between a parent deciding that the content of a book is not suitable for a child and an entire community deciding what everyone is allowed to read. We say let’s read books with unsuitable material, lets create and spread ideas, let’s think critically, and let’s be open to new possibilities. That is what I believe Banned Books Week celebrate. I recently read a quote from Sonya Sones, author of Perfectly Honest. She says, “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?”
Just for a final statement, I will say that I have been pleasantly surprised at the number of patrons who cannot fathom banning the books that are continually banned or challenged. Way to go community!
Want to find out more? Check out some of the links below: