Banned Books Week is Sept. 30 – Oct. 6
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.
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.
Want to find out what other books are frequently banned or challenged? Visit www.ala.org/bbooks.
Submitted by Jennifer Petersen, Public Information Office