Banned Books Week, September 24th to October 1st, reminds us all that it is our First Amendment right to read whatever we choose and highlights the harm caused by censorship.
Says Molly Raphael, President of the American Library Association, “Whether in print or digital format, books are a precious resource, providing us with information, entertainment, opinions, ideas, and a window on lives far different from our own. Free access to books is the foundation of our government and society, enabling every person to become an educated participant in our democratic republic . . .”
And yet there are those who would decide for us what we can and cannot read, and while no book has ever been banned in America, scores of them are challenged by well-meaning people—mostly parents—all-too-frequently. Indeed, 348 books were called into question in 2010 alone—and for such reasons as:
1. Offensive language
2. Sexual explicitness
3. Unsuited to age group
5. Occult or Satanic content
7. Religious viewpoint
8. Political viewpoint
No wonder, then, that the Montgomery-Norristown Library typically graces its doors with a poster reminding the many who enter that it is their right to choose their books freely and that censorship has no place in our democratic society.
As Ms. Raphael advises: “The removal of one book is the equivalent of stripping away the rights of hundred to choose books for themselves.”
Yet folks try, and their top ten most “unsuitable” books are, in order and for various reasons:
1. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
4. Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
6. Lush, by Natasha Friend
7. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
8. Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich
9. Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie
10. Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer
The bottom line: educate yourself about the books out there for young people, guiding your child to be selective—book-wise and other-wise. And all along the way, be sure to talk up the Constitution and its many amendments, starting with the first one that makes it possible for folks to decry and challenge what’s in print but not prevent others from reading it. That, of course, is the whole point of Banned Books Week and why it’s celebrated every year.