Freedom to Read Week: Banned Book Week 2015

#BannedBookWeek is Sept 29- Oct 3, 2015
My daughter and I talk about Banned Book Week (September 27-Oct 3, 2015) and her response surprises me when she says "So what do I do instead, watch TV?"

Our banter quickly turns south with mentions of a reverse world where the Amish get to watch TV and we don't have electricity. I'm able to turn it back on track, but not without first acknowledging how powerful and important words can be.

My 7th grader understands limits and restrictions. She encounters them every day with bed time rules, Internet filters and blocked sites. She knows that some materials aren't appropriate for her right now. She knows that some of her friends have a very different set of rules. She also understands what the word "banned" means.

I take the time to explain to her that Banned Book Week (Freedom to Read) is not the same as "Turn Off TV Week;" it's the one week out of the year that is set aside to shine a bright light on censorship. Librarians, book sellers, teachers, writers, and publishers are just a few of the organizations working to maintain the freedom to read. Some people feel that book burning and censorship is something from the past, unfortunately it is still prevalent today.  According to Kristin Pekoll, Assistant Director for the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom, books are being challenged or banned in communities around the United States and the world.

"The public is not going to keep intellectual freedom and libraries at the forefront of their minds all year," says Pekoll. "Banned Book Week is an opportunity to demonstrate the harm of censorship that still happens today."

According to Pekoll the most basic act to do is to thank a librarian. Perhaps your favorite book is on the library shelf because that librarian fought for the right for that book to remain there, whether you knew it or not.  If there is a book challenge in your community, write a letter and show public support so that favorite book isn't taken away.

"We want to stand up and voice our rights," says Pekoll. "The school board or committees only hear the complaints a lot of the time. Libraries and people need to let everyone know it is important to have access to books. We need those voices to be heard as well."
There is always a reason for a book to be challenged. Most of the time the book is considered unsuitable for the age group, sexual explicit or against the ideas of a particular religious or political group.  

When J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series came out it quickly became one of the most challenged books because of its tie to the occult. For my family, Harry Potter and many other "magical" books helped create lifelong readers. A thank you is in order to all the librarians, teachers, students, publishers and bookstores who helped keep those books available for my children and many others. 

My children are still going to have restrictions and not every book is always the right book for every age. At least we have the freedom to choose a book and read it. Perhaps that book will let us have conversations with our children about opposing ideas and tolerance. Perhaps that book can explain something that we can not. 

To celebrate our right to read my daughter is rereading a Harry Potter book for seemingly the hundredth time while I'm going to stick to the classics, and revisit an old favorite "To Kill a Mockingbird." Enjoy your right to read! 

Here is the form to report a challenged book

© Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Time™ guidebook series. Adirondack Family Time™guidebooks have easy, short Adirondack family hikes for ADK kids, parents, retired, seniors, dog-owners, Adirondack swimming holes, Lake Placid Olympic activities, Adirondack trivia, Adirondack horseback rides, Adirondack snowshoe family trails and more. Look for the Adirondack family guidebooks online or bookstores/museums/sporting good stores. Diane is currently working on the next Adirondack Family Activities™ guide.

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