Free Your Mind: Read a Banned Book!

24 Sep

Every year the American Library Association (ALA) sponsors Banned Books Week to celebrate the freedom to read. Starting today, September 24, through October 1, 2011, TSM encourages everyone to take the time to celebrate and appreciate the freedom of information and expression inherent in our national principles.

Sadly, many people wish to impose their views or values on others and restrict access to information they feel is dangerous for a variety of reasons. Some of these people are well-intentioned, but many set out to block views with which they disagree.

Typical targets for challenges are:

  • Sexual content, especially materials dealing with homosexuality
  • Content perceived as conflicting with religious or moral values
  • Age-appropriateness of materials
  • Portrayals of witchcraft or devil worship
  • Materials perceived as subversive or unpatriotic

ALA compiles a list of the most-challenged books each year which it releases in April during National Library Week. The 2010 top ten includes books in most of these categories and, as usual, is heavy on materials for children and teens. Champion challenge lists have been compiled for each of the past two decades as well; the 2000 – 2009 list was led (by a wide margin) by the Harry Potter series, proving that popularity is no insulation from the clutches of ignorance.

In libraries, there is an important distinction between a book being challenged and being banned. Anyone who uses the library may question the inclusion of material in its collection. Good libraries have strong policies that describe what they collect and how they provide access to it. When a challenge is placed, the library (or its board or other leadership in some cases) can decide to reject the challenge, place restrictions on the material (such as moving a book from the children’s area to the adult area), or get rid of it altogether. A banned book is one that has been removed. Libraries report hundreds of challenges to their collections each year. Since reporting is voluntary, it is safe to assume that there are many more challenges that occur.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings. Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections. Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if we did not have Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.

See what all the fuss is about! Take the time to read a banned book this week. Whether you find something challenging that makes you think or experience a great read and wonder what the controversy was, you’ll be glad you did.

(As an added bonus, McGill University has compiled this list of banned books, all of which include links to lists of local libraries so you can borrow and read them!)


11 Responses to “Free Your Mind: Read a Banned Book!”

  1. James Queale September 24, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    Ah, so this is the new gay agenda, getting people to read banned books! God doesn’t want them reading such filth! LOL There was a town in Missouri I wrote about a few weeks ago, where a guy campaigned to get the Slaughter House Five banned and it worked. He said it taught things opposite of the Bible. That always makes me angry because the Bible is not child friendly, a lot of times it is not even adult friendly, but anyway, I won’t get into a theology discussion.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt September 24, 2011 at 11:57 am #

      I am always desperately saddened when ignorance prevails. Thank you for including the link. 🙂

      • James Queale September 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

        Ignorance never goes away. What annoys me most are people who are purposely ignorant. They hear the facts and still chose to ignore them.

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt September 24, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

        Yes, willful ignorance seems to be the prevalent theme for the past 20 years, specifically with people voting Republican, a la voting against their best interest.

  2. James Queale September 24, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    You mean voting for big oil, corporations and people who want to abolish medicare, is voting against your best interest? But that will help America be strong! LOL

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt September 24, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

      Exactly! 🙂

      • James Queale September 24, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

        Can you imagine thinking that way? They say to take a walk in other people’s shoes, but I can never lower my IQ to their level.

  3. stear1 September 25, 2011 at 6:39 am #

    I find this list more amazing every year, and wish it would come with an explanation sheet of why the book in question will destroy the human race. To Kill a Mockingbird was on the list years ago for the use of the term “Whore Lady” (still makes me laugh in context). Almost every book on this list was required reading for me in HS and College. Talk about the dumbing down of America. What a very sad reflection on our society.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt September 25, 2011 at 8:18 am #

      It makes it much easier to control a population if you keep them ignorant, thus huge populations of people today voting against their best interest.

  4. cyclingrandma September 25, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

    Here’s my post on this important issue:

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