Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wednesday Words: Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week is in full swing, starting on September 22nd and lasting until the 28th. What is this week all about? It's a celebration of the freedom to read, to have texts and materials from a variety of viewpoints and genres available for people so they can make the choice for themselves if they want to read them or not rather than those materials being restricted and having that option taken away. And of course when you're talking about challenging or removing books, things can get a little heated.

Last week, I set up a display in the school library where I work. At the same time, I also put together a graphic of some book covers of commonly challenged books along with a few quotes from actual challenges people filed against these titles. I put it on my personal Tumblr account, hoping other people might find it interesting or useful and didn't really think too much of it because not much of what I put online gets a whole lot of notice, usually. You can see it here.

So imagine my shock when at the time of writing this post, that graphic had over 28,000 notes on Tumblr. On the one hand, I'm so excited to see so many people responding to Banned Books Week and my work, but I'll admit that some of the many, many comments people have had on it do make me pause.

Especially among teens, I find Banned Books Week to be a great celebration. They're at an age where they like being able to finally make choices, and the books you choose to read at that age can potentially shape the rest of your life. Also, what better way to get people to read something than to tell them "someone out there doesn't want you to read this. In fact they think that so much, they wish we didn't even have it in the library for you." The books fly off the shelf, and suddenly there's a new appreciation for the titles on the list that are also required reading in English classes.

What Banned Books Week is NOT about, though, is anger. It's not about calling other people ignorant or stupid or wrong. It's okay to not love every book on this extensive list, nor should people feel compelled to read all of them because they believe in the right to choose. You can choose to read it, but you can also choose not to. And that's okay. Read what's right for you. What Banned Books Week is about is having materials available so your book, whatever it may be, will be there for you. Most people who challenge books do have good intentions, but so do the librarians who insist on keeping materials.

So here's to celebrating fREADom and may your week be an educational one! Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

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