Today marks the mid-point of Banned Books Week, a celebration of the freedom to read. Sponsored by the American Library Association and recognized by school and public libraries nationwide, Banned Books Week challenges the practice of censoring books that some believe contain objectionable content. What we learned in Jamie Born’s Media Literacy class this week is, even though one reader might find a topic or writing style in a book offensive, that shouldn’t keep others from having access to the book. In fact, the very books that experience challenges the most also comprise the list of most popular check-outs in our school libraries in the past decade, among them: Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska by John Green; Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling; and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
The public is recognizing #BannedBooksWeek on Twitter with selfies of themselves reading their favorite book from the Banned Books List—The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky; The Giver, by Lois Lowry; and pretty much anything by Toni Morrison. In the 15 minutes I’ve been sitting here writing this post, 40 new tweets appeared in the conversation from librarians and readers and organizations and teachers and authors.
Five minutes later: 20 more new tweets.
It’s true that some of the topics that concern parents, teachers, administrators, and others who challenge the presence of a book on a library shelf are, or can be, uncomfortable. The challengers feel compelled to protect their teen from offensive or sexually explicit language or ideas that test or question their personal morals or values. However, as Chbosky, author of Perks, said, “Banning books gives us silence when we need speech. It closes our ears when we need to listen. It makes us blind when we need sight.”
20 more tweets.
You have intellectual freedom. Take some time to appreciate that this week.