In 1982 the American Library Association and Amnesty International set aside the last week in September to bring awareness to the dangers of censorship and the freedom to read. The event was the brainchild of Judith Krug, a librarian and crusader for free speech. It was through her efforts that Banned Book Week came to be.
Banned Book Week is important for so many reasons. First and foremost it brings attention to a problem that is not a diminishing one. Last year hundreds of public libraries and school libraries faced challenges from parents, patrons and even other librarians over the content of books. These are the Thought Police, your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Should they have the right to tell you what you or your child can read? Most of us would agree they don’t and that is why protecting the First Amendment is so important to our lives.
Why are books banned? I wish there was a simple answer, but the easiest way to explain it is that the book contains something that another person or group finds offensive or dangerous. Does this give them the right to challenge the book? Yes, it does offer them a chance to plead their case, BUT it doesn’t extend the right to walk in and pull them from the shelves and burn them, which is what happens around the world, even today. Thankfully most of these challenges in the United States are not held up. Can you guess which state in 2016 challenged the most books? Texas, they challenged over 300 books and continue to be a battleground for First Amendment rights as well as educational standards.
So what can you do? First and foremost, report challenges. According to the ALA 82-92% of challenged books go unreported. So if you are aware of this notify your librarian. Another way to combat the problem is to read, and read books that are banned-use this to begin conversation. It is conversation that leads to understanding which moves us forward. For more resources on Banned Book Week and the Virtual Read-Out we encourage you to visit www.ala.org
This year’s Banned Book Week is September 23rd to September 29th and Landmark Books is challenging everyone to read at least 1 banned book and talk with someone about it. We are happy to offer suggestions and watch our Facebook page for additional information during the week on challenged books.