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  • Writer's pictureJudy

Sept. 18, 2022: Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week starts today! This is a week designed to raise awareness of censorship and to celebrate the freedom to read. First started in 1982, this week has always been an important way to bring the process of banning books into the social consciousness, and hopefully start conversations. This year, it is even more critical that we all become aware of this very dangerous way of taking away our freedoms.

Censorship, like most things that erode our freedoms, starts small and often seem innocuous. Historically, we see that it is through the gradual chipping away of rights that cultures and groups of people lose their liberties and rights. It should come as no surprise that when we study the dictatorships or fascist regimes of the past, one of the first things they do is to censor reading materials. They ban and burn books.

When talking about books and reading material, there is of course, the delicate balance of freedom of expression and truth. There is a reason this right is part of the First Amendment in our Bill of Rights. It is that important.

Reading material for children becomes an even more complex and emotional subject. When parents and teachers select reading materials for children, there is much to consider in addition to the quality of the work. Is it developmentally appropriate? Is the language and wording accessible to the child? Will the content add value to the child’s life and reading experience? Or is the message or theme above their maturity level at this point?

Through careful examination of books, many will not be selected. For many reasons. And that is part of a parent’s right and responsibility.

But censorship and choice are two very different things. Choice is deciding a particular book or movie is inappropriate for your child or contains things you do not want them to be exposed to. Perfectly acceptable as a parent. Censorship is when you decide you do not want ANYONE to read that book because you find it objectionable. That is not acceptable.

Some of the most powerful pieces of literature contain objectionable content. Reading things you find objectionable can solidify your position or provide food for thought. Both are worthy.

It is also perfectly acceptable and encouraged, to select not to read things you find objectionable. Your choice is a powerful tool. It wields an economic hammer that can be felt far and wide.

While there may be books I would never read for a variety of reasons, I will always support your right to read them. That is why becoming aware of the problem of banning books is so critical. Most people are not even aware of the vastness of censorship that does go on in our country. The number of banned books and the number of attempts to ban books, has gone up tremendously in the last year. This is extremely unsettling.

Some disturbing facts about banned and challenged books:

- There was a 14% increase in the amount of censorship attempts in 2019 than there was in 2018.

- Many attempts to ban books are going on quietly and without open discussion and input from those impacted.

- One of the most frequently listed reasons for trying to get a book banned is “Conflicts with the values of the Community”.

- The lists of challenged and banned books are filled with titles of renowned literary works.

As we go through this year’s Banned Books Week, celebrate your freedom to read. Perhaps even check out some banned book lists and select a book from there to read. I know some of my favorites are on the lists!

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