Welcome to September – my favorite month of the year!
Not only is this month home to my birthday, it’s the kick off for fall, the holiday season, and a fantastic time to focus on reading and books. September 27th is the start of this year’s Banned Books Week, an event I’m particularly passionate about.
Banned Books Week was created by the American Library Association to draw attention to (and hopefully prevent) literary censorship. Each year, the event encourages you to read books that have been challenged or banned and includes a list of the previous year’s most challenged books. The purpose is to ensure the future of free exchange of ideas, and remind us that censorship can be dangerous.
I fully support your right to read whatever you choose. Reading opens new worlds to you, boosts your creativity, and makes you a more understanding person. There may be books out there that I don’t have any interest in reading because of the content, but that certainly doesn’t mean I should be able to keep others from reading them. Parents should put age-appropriate limits on what their kids read (based on research of the books in question), but they should never have the ability to keep others’ kids from reading whatever they and their families choose.
The challenges to books on the ALA’s list each year include complaints that the books are “anti-family,” not age-appropriate, “satanic/include witchcraft,” and “anti-authority.” Again, if someone doesn’t want to read books of this nature, that’s fine – but it should scare you that people out there want to make sure you can’t read them either. Typically, the challenges seek to remove the books from libraries or schools. Even worse, this list frequently includes books you probably consider classics; the Harry Potter series, Catcher in the Rye, Grapes of Wrath, and To Kill a Mockingbird have all made the list previously.
I challenge you to read a banned book or two this month. Whether it’s Harry Potter, 50 Shades of Grey, or the Anarchist Cookbook (actually a book I plan to read when I’m able to find it), read away! Encourage the youth you know to read and read frequently. Stand up against book challenges in your community, and support your local library. Books represent the voices of all of us, even those we disagree with. My reading list this month includes a few books on the ALA’s list, as well as some new releases (and maybe this will at long last be the month I get to read Girl on a Train!)