When people hear the phrase “banned book,” a scene from Fahrenheit 451 often comes to mind. Luckily, we live in a time and place when objectionable books are not collected, burned, destroyed so no one will ever be able to read them. However, people will sometimes demand that a book that they find to be objectionable be removed from a classroom or library. Even though some people might have good intentions behind challenging a book, the attempt to restrict access to information goes against what libraries stand for.
Banned Books Week is a yearly event that celebrates our freedom to read–or, more importantly, our freedom from censorship. Many schools and libraries hear requests from community members to remove books that they might find objectionable or offensive. The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom compiles a list of frequently challenged books, as reported by teachers and librarians. Banned Book Week celebrates the fact that even though these books are challenged, nothing is stopping us from reading them–we have the right to access information and ideas, even if they are unpopular or unorthodox. It also invites us to consider diverse perspectives. Libraries deliberately purchase materials to meet the needs of our community, which means we have books, DVDs and other materials that support a wide range of views. We don’t all think the same, so why should we read the same?
This week, celebrate your freedom to read by checking out a banned book from your library.