Who should have control of what books are on the shelves? It is the librarian? What about the city live in? The school you drive by? The parents that send their children to school every day? A community of people? Banned book week is all about the freedom to read, the books that are challenged, and celebrating those that fight to keep books on the shelves where they belong.
This week is Banned Book Week. If you don’t read a lot, it seems like a strange reason to have a week for. However, it’s important we take the time to celebrate the freedom to read as well as remind readers (and non-readers) that its important that communities have uncensored access to books.
The History of Banned Book Week
Established in 1982, we celebrate Banned Book Week for several reasons. It’s a week to discuss most challenged books of all time. Some popular classics that are challenged include The Catcher in the Rye, 1984, Of Mice and Men, and To Kill a Mockingbird. (A beloved classic by many, but has been referred to as a filthy, trashy novel in the past).
It’s also a chance to educate people on what a challenge really is. A challenge isn’t someone just complaining. A challenge is considered an active push by a person or community to remove these books. Challenges aren’t always malicious. Sometimes, these people believe they are doing the right thing to protect children from certain content. Sometimes, challenges want to keep children in a box that the person is more comfortable with.
The 2016 Top 10 Challenged Books
There’s also a lot of focus on the books that were challenged often the past year. It’s disappointing, but not shocking, that books are banned for LGBTQ topics, profanity, drug use, and sexual content. I haven’t read them yet, but from what I know, half of the top 10 are about LGBTQ characters, almost all of them have content about sex and sexuality, and a few of them were cited as having “offensive viewpoints”.
I’m not parent myself so I can only speak as someone who was a child before (shocking I know.) Awareness of these topics begin before someone is double digits even if you don’t have the language to talk about them yet. If I had access to content that safely explained these topics as a kid, I’d probably spend more time trying to understand people who are different and less time being mean because someone was different and I didn’t understand.
Thank You Advocates
Lastly, this week is to celebrate the book heroes. They don’t wear a fancy cape or go by an alias, but they are on the ground making sure children have access to quality educational books. To the librarians who impact so many young readers to the advocates that will show up to city council or PTA meetings and stand up for what they believe in, we thank you so much.
Only 10% of the books challenged are removed according to ALA records. However, there’s more work to be done. The ALA also believes that over 10,000 challenges per year are never reported. Books are powerful. They have the ability to change someone’s life. They’re why I picked my degree. They’re why I made this website. I’ve met friends by being a reader. Denying a child a book means a door is closed for them and that’s why Banned Book Week is so important.
Until next time, happy reading everyone!
Most information for this post comes from bannedbookweek.org and www.ala.org. They’re fabulous websites and do incredible work for books and those that love them. You should go check them out because they are more eloquent on these topics than I am