Censorship has been practiced practically as long as knowledge has been publicly available. From the destruction of murals and hieroglyphic etchings in Ancient Egypt to the burning of books and burying of scholars in China’s Qin Dynasty, censorship occurs in various (and sometimes unnecessarily dramatic) forms throughout the globe. In the United States, the banning of information intended for general viewing and use is a direct challenge to the First Amendment. In response to that challenge, literary revolutionaries have established Banned Books Week.
From September 24th to October 1st, book aficionados across the United States emphasize the “benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books…” According to the American Library Association, intellectual freedom is the core of Banned Books Week. Persecuted individuals related to said restrictions are instead celebrated as luminaries who aid in absolute literary appreciation, rather than learned pariahs.
Founded in 1982 by First Amendment and library activist Judith Krug, Banned Books Week encourages readers not only to read, but also to acknowledge literary works for their worth without any preconceived notions, biases, or judgments. Gaining momentum in recent years, Banned Books Week is endorsed by a plethora of learning institutions and societies including: The American Library Association, American Booksellers Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers, and even the Library of Congress.
In addition to awareness, the power of written work sparks many types of rebellion in the literary community during Banned Books Week. Booksellers, librarians, and teachers alike aim to teach the importance of unrestricted information and the dangers that develop when restraints are enforced in a society that prides itself on “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In 2010 alone, there were 348 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom and a total of more than 11,000 books called into question since the inception of Banned Books Week.
Perhaps most important of all, the last week of September is a reminder to both American citizens and citizens of the world that learning is inherently limitless and should therefore be allowed to flourish in the same manner. The human mind absorbs information oftentimes on reflex; to actively restrict the sense of smell or sight, for example, is something most people could not even fathom, much less allow. So grab a favorite book for a read (or a re-reading) and help celebrate Banned Books Week by paying tribute to the worlds, friends, and insight found within the turn of every page.