Saturday, September 26, 2009

I Read Banned Books

I have been very blessed in many areas of my life. One of the most important personally and professionally is the fact that I grew up in a in a household of readers. Of equal importance was that this was a family of readers in which no book was forbidden.

Certainly there were books my siblings and I chose which my parents didn’t care for, but I never remember them forbidding even one title. Granted, if I chose something they considered too sophisticated (THE EXECUTIONER’S SONG the summer between 8th and 9th grade, for example) they let me know—but it was with a subtle, “I’d prefer if you didn’t read that now…” I can’t remember even one instance where they said no to me or to my siblings when it came to the written word.

And happily—luckily—though I attended school all over the United States, I don’t recall living in district where a book was challenged by a parent, educator, or community at large.

Today is the start of the 28th annual observation of Banned Books Week. This is a week to celebrate our freedom to read and our access to information. Glance over the list compiled by the American Library Association of the 100 most frequently challenged books from the 90’s and my guess is you’ll be surprised by what some people have found so offensive they want to restrict access for the rest of us. This is also a week to show support to all of those who help protect our intellectual rights on a daily basis—particularly the librarians, booksellers, and educators who are most often on the front lines.

I’ve been reading quite a bit to prepare for this week, and I found myself returning to this quote by Margaret Bald, co-author of 100 BANNED BOOKS, again and again:

“When you look back over the centuries at censorship and see the incredible range of books and authors whose works were suppressed, you can only be struck by how absurdly ineffective and useless it has been in the long run.”

There are hundreds of books that have been banned or challenged over the centuries. My challenge to you is to read one of those books this week.

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