It’s Banned Book Week, celebrating Freedom of Speech and calling for an end to the banning of books in public forums.
The American Library Association (ALA) sponsors the event annually, with the intention of getting people to read more of the books that have been banned from libraries, schools, and other venues, and hopefully call others to action to remove the ban and make the books accessible again. The idea is to let individuals make the choices for themselves and their families. What one family may find as offensive, another may find worthy of reading and discussion.
Over the years, organizations such as the NAACP, Christian Voters League, and Concerned Women of America have called for book banning. School boards in places like Drake, North Dakota; Foxworth, Mississippi; and Rib Lake, Wisconsin have joined federal departments like the CIA, FBA, FDA, and USPS in calling for bans. But the surprising part was finding that media outlets, such as Parade Magazine and CBS’s show Sixty Minutes have called for banning certain books.
Authors such as Ray Bradbury, Joseph Heller, Anne Rice, and J. K. Rowling have joined the ranks of William Shakespeare, Giovanni Boccacio, and Daniel DaFoe in the banned category. Books such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, American Heritage Dictionary, Decamerone, and Lolita have been banned for accusations of racist or obscene language, as well as homosexuality.
Websites such as Banned Book Week and Controversial and Banned Books have joined the ALA in calling for the removal of bans, especially in the schools. It’s certainly understandable that parents should control what their children and young adults read and it is within their rights to do so. But not all parents have the same standards. Many prefer to allow their kids the right to read books that the parents feel are age appropriate, as long as they do so within parental supervision and they discuss the books with their children. These parents also call for the removal of bans, saying it is their choice and their children/young adults.
An alternative would be to require parental permission to read banned books, especially within classroom discussions. Books such as Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird have been banned because of “racist” speech, but many fans of the books–and the authors themselves–have said, that was the whole point of the books; they point out the values of the time, let the values speak for themselves. Twain himself stated that he was pointing out the racism inherent in society and the wrongness of it by his story and characters. Discussion of these values in class can help later generations understand our past and work against those same values, to remove them from our future.
Lexington, what is your feeling on the banning of books? When do you feel it’s a right thing to do and when is it wrong? Tell me in the comments.
Local bookstores such as Joseph-Beth Booksellers and Barnes & Noble will have displays of banned books in their stores, and encourage customers to purchase and read the books for themselves. The Lexington Public Library has participated in the past, having titles highlighted for borrowing from the different branches. Going to your individual branch, they will be very glad to help you find a title on the list and borrow it. Or you can contact the Central Branch at 859-231-5534 and ask for Toy or Megan. They can also give you information and help you find any title you wish to read.
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