You may have noticed that Lookout is celebrating Banned Books Week, which runs from September 30 – October 6.
Here in Wilmington, Old Books On Front St. hosted a Banned Books Read-In on October 1st. The YouTube channel Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out features readers “exercising their First Amendment Right to read a banned book.”
Hopefully many readers across the U.S. have been spending this week feeling grateful for—and inspired by—the opportunity to read banned books and fight back against the egregious acts of censorship that have prevented many readers from accessing these titles.
The American Library Association (ALA) explains that at least 326 books were removed from or challenged by U.S. schools and libraries in 2011. Sadly, they also estimate that 70 – 80 percent of acts of censorship go unreported. From Call to the Wild to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to To Kill a Mockingbird, some of our nation’s beloved classics have done time on institutional ban lists. Literary censorship doesn’t stop with literature from the 19th and 20th centuries, however: contemporary books such as The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie were among the most challenged titles of 2011. (The ALA explains that “challenged” means an attempt by an individual or group to remove or limit access to a piece of literature. A “banning” occurs when that piece of literature is actually restricted by a particular institution.)
If you’re wondering how you can participate in the fight for fair access to literature during Banned Books Week and beyond, here are some ideas:
1) Check out the 50 State Salute to discover events and ideas from every state
2) Participate in the Virtual Read-Out by submitting a video, promoting the cause through social media, and commenting on your favorite contributions.
3) Read widely and often! Banned, challenged, or not, being a proud visible reader makes an awesome statement.
4) Purchase—or check out from the library—books you know to have been challenged or banned. For ideas, download the National Council of Teachers of English list of challenged books.
5) Support your local schools and libraries by informing the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom if you hear about a challenge to a book in your community.
Remember, Banned Books Week only happens once a year as a way to raise awareness about book-banning and challenging, but it’s a relevant national and international issue every day of every year. Let your celebration of challenged, challenging, thought-provoking literature extend far beyond October 6!
– Katie Jones, Lookout Books Intern