Banned Books Week

It’s hard to believe that anything might be banned in today’s world. Between bawdy television shows, suggestive advertisements, and risque cinema, I honestly thought we had already broken through all thresholds of tolerance. Archaic as it may sound, there are people who still challenge books and move to have them banned.

September 26th through October 3rd is Banned Books Week (BBW). Sponsored by several literary societies and associations, BBW was designed to celebrate intellectual freedom and embrace the power of literature. The American Library Association (ALA) has a trove of information about Banned Books Week as well as compiled lists of books that have been challenged/banned over past years.

What is the difference between a banned book and a challenged book?  To lift directly from the ALA, “A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials.  Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.”

If you think about tangling with your local librarians, think again. The following definition of intellectual freedom by the American Library Association follows:

ALA actively advocates in defense of the rights of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment.  A publicly supported library provides free and equal access to information for all people of that community.  We enjoy this basic right in our democratic society.  It is a core value of the library profession.

So really, how much does this affect me?  Did you read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini? Not only did I love this book, but empathetically learned a tremendous amount about both Afghanistan and the Taliban.  According to’s Recently Banned and Challenged Books of 2008, it has been both challenged and removed from several high school curricula. Prep, The Lovely Bones? Maybe not high-brow literature, but are these titles worth challenging? Can you imagine being stripped of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Of Mice and Men, or Native Son just to name a few?

What this week is all about is the protection of your rights. Librarians, teachers, and booksellers go to great lengths to feature threatened books, reiterating the importance of your personal freedom to choose. This is a nationwide celebration of awareness, so check your local library and book stores for Banned Book Week events.

Post by Megan Shaffer

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