This week is Banned Books Week, which celebrates the freedom to read and the First Amendment. In an age when more information is available than ever thanks to the internet, Banned Books Week highlights issues of censorship and reminds us why free and open access to information is an essential part of our society. Banned Books Week puts intellectual freedom — “the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular” — in the spotlight.
Since literature has existed, there have been calls to ban it. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato argued in his Republic that the poetry of Homer — his Iliad and the Odyssey were part of a young (male) Athenian citizen’s education — and the plays of the great tragic poets should be banned from his ideal state because they taught falsehoods about the gods and offered poor models of proper behavior and virtue. Inappropriate content — because that content is judged as sexually explicit or containing “offensive language” or material “unsuited to any age group” — remains a top reason that books end up on the banned lists of school curriculum and libraries. Fears run deep about the power of words to lead young minds astray.
But calls to challenge and ban books have their uses. Sometimes nothing succeeds like a little negative publicity to remind us of why we need books like To Kill a Mockingbird, Beloved, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm and many other classics and more recent works.
“They banned To Kill A Mockingbird? Are they insane?” — Robyn B.
Photo by Moni3, via Wikimedia Commons
“in elementary school our teacher Ms. Groth (wonderful teacher) had us reading “A Tale Of Two Cities“, it created an uproar among some parents and members of the school board in consertive Orange County CA. we finished our Dicken’s classic, and the controversy inspired me to read any & every controversial book I could find. thank you Ms. Groth ! “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” –Keith C.
Photo by Chordboard via Wikimedia Commons
“Interesting. Many of the top ten classics were required reading when I was in high school and college. And I’m glad I did, they truly are classics. Reading “The Grapes of Wrath” led me to reading all of the books by Steinbeck including “Travels with Charley”, an absolute delight.” –Karen and Edwar O.
Photo from drmvm1 via flickr creative commons
“And Tango Makes Three is the story of two male penguins in Central Park Zoo. They “bowed and sang to each other, swam and walked together.” The zookeeper realizes “they must be in love.” So when he sees them make a nest and try to hatch a rock, he gives them an egg from another penguin couple that laid two but had never been able to care for more than one. Silo and Roy sit on the egg and care for it like all the other penguin couples. When the egg hatches there is a baby girl penguin, Tango. They feed her, teach her to sing for them when she’s hungry, they teach her to swim & snuggle her in their nest at night. They are a normal penguin family, but with two daddies, and some people just can’t stand that.” — Marlena M.
Photo by Kraemer Family Library
“What a good way to make sure that some of the best literature gets read!
“Reading banned books is such fun. I remember buying “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” in a plain brown paper wrapper from the back of the bookshop. I read it as soon as I got home.
“Most of those books that are listed here are on Australian lists to be studied in class.
Interesting, isn’t it?” — Alexandra R.
Photo by cdrummbks
Banned Books Week sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers and the National Association of College Stores. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. In 2011, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Council of Teachers of English and PEN American Center also signed on as sponsors.
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Photo by Somerset Public Library