Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. This year, 2008, marks BBW's 27th anniversary (September 27 through October 4).
BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.
BBW is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers, National Association of College Stores, and is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.
According to the American Library Association, their office for Intellectual Freedom received 420 challenges last year.
A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. According to Judith F. Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, the number of challenges reflects only incidents reported, and for each reported, four or five remain unreported.
The “10 Most Challenged Books of 2007” reflect a range of themes, and consist of the following titles:
1) “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group
2) The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence
3) “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language
4) “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint
5) “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
6) “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language,
7) "TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
8) "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually Explicit
9) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit
10) "The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to A
I had a chuckle at book number 9, "It's perfectly Normal".
This book is in my library and on my list to use with the kids. Right now we're reading it's companion book, "It's So Amazing!: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families".
It's a really good sex ed book for the early elementary crowd. I did skip parts of the book that I didn't feel were necessary for the kids to know about right now. For the moment I am sticking to the concept of intercourse being for reproduction and for enjoyment between married couples and as the need arises, I'll expand on my explanations.
Read more about Banned Book Week at the ALA's website
What you can do to fight censorship and keep books available in your libraries
Here are some of our suggestions to help you celebrate the week. We hope one is a good fit for you. If you can think of other ways to celebrate the week, please share them with us at email@example.com. Your ideas may inspire other people!
Stay informed. If you read or hear about a challenge at your school or public library, support your librarian and free and open access to library materials. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom estimates they learn of only 20 to 25 percent of book challenges. Let us know if there is a challenge in your community. Find out what the policy is for reviewing challenged materials at your school or public library. Join the Intellectual Freedom Action News (IFACTION) e-list.
Organize your own Banned Books Read-Out! at your school, public library, or favorite bookstore.
Get involved. Go to school board meetings. Volunteer to help your local school or public library create an event that discusses the freedom to read and helps educate about censorship—maybe a film festival, a readout, a panel discussion, an author reading or a poster contest for children illustrating the concept of free speech.
Speak out. Write letters to the editor, your public library director and your local school principal supporting the freedom to read. Talk to your neighbors and friends about why everyone should be allowed to choose for themselves and their families what they read. Encourage your governor, city council and/or mayor to proclaim "Banned Books Week - Celebrating the Freedom to Read" in your state or community.
Exercise your rights! Check out or re-read a favorite banned book. Encourage your book group to read and discuss one of the books. Give one of your favorite books as a gift. The 100 most challenged books of the 1990s is a good resource!
Join the Freedom to Read Foundation. The Foundation is dedicated to the legal and financial defense of intellectual freedom, especially in libraries. You can also support the cause by buying Banned Books Week posters, buttons and T-shirts online.
Dedicate one day's programming on your National Public Radio (NPR) station to Banned Books Week. For example, "Today's programming on [the name of the radio station] is made possible in part by [your name], who is celebrating this Banned Books Week by re-reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings [or another favorite banned or challenged book] or by accomplishing some other activity related to the week.
Mount these Web badges on your blogs and home pages to help spread the word about BBW.