What is Banned Books Week? The American Library Association (ALA) says, “Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community – librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types – in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.”
This year, Banned Books Week is September 30-October 6.
If you have ever read a book, chances are that book has been challenged at some point. Many classics, including To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, have been challenged (check out the list of banned and challenged classics), not to mention more modern, popular books, such as the Harry Potter series. (To see the full mix of banned/challenged books, check out the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books by decade list.) From beloved children’s book authors such as Judy Blume and Lois Lowry to literary lions such as Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood, it’s clear that the same books that many people love for their enduring appeal and/or literary merit are the same books that infuriate others.
By the way, if you’re wondering why I keep saying “banned/challenged,” it’s because there’s a difference. A person or group of people might challenge a book’s presence in their school library, local public library, or even bookstore, attempting to restrict access or remove the book entirely. Only if librarians, administrators, or booksellers actually make the book unavailable (a.k.a. censorship) is it considered banned. Even then, of course, it’s not a statewide or nationwide ban; the book is still probably available in the next town over, or on the Internet.
Celebrate your freedom to read (or “freadom”) by reading a book, any book. If you need ideas, check out one of the lists from the links above, or one of these surprising books – though if you manage to read the whole dictionary, we’ll be impressed.