What’s the Deal with Banned Books Week?

Every year, libraries, teachers,  book stores and more, take one week to speak up about the practice of challenging and banning books and celebrate our freedom to read what we want to read. It’s called Banned Books Week and it is happening right now, September 30-October 6.

Reprinted by permission of the American Library Association.

What exactly does it mean to ban or challenge a book? Books can be challenged by anyone who finds something wrong with them, based on the perceived values represented in the book.  People can challenge the use of a book in a class, the existence of a book in a book store or library, or the very publication of a book. Challenges to books are based on their content, often content that is deemed inappropriate by whomever is bringing the challenge. School libraries and public libraries are both susceptible to people challenging materials that they own and/or make available for reading.

Up until the early part of the 20th century, the government was allowed to ban books and other materials from being distributed. Banning or challenging books is a form of censorship: someone (other than your own parents or guardian, who typically do have some control over your lives) telling you what you can or cannot read based on their beliefs, not yours. One formerly banned book, perhaps the most famous book ban in American history, is one you might read in high school: Ulysses by James Joyce. Thankfully, these days books are not often banned outright.

In most cases, the books that are challenged are those written for teenagers. The Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2011 include titles you might recognize: The Hunger Games, Lauren Myracle’s series ttyl, ttfn, and l8r g8r , The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and Cecily Von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl series. Find the full list here and on the display board in the teen area.

You can follow Banned Books Week on Twitter with the hashtag #bannedbooksweek.

Celebrate your freedom to read!

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