“To you zealots and bigots and false patriots who live in fear of discourse. You screamers and banners and burners who would force books off shelves in your brand name of greater good…” So starts the Banned Books Week Manifesto 2009.
Since 1982, Banned Books Week (http://www.bannedbooksweek.org) has been observed during the last week of September, this year September 26 through October 3. It was originally founded in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries. And no book is safe. Over the years, targeted books have included new releases as well as beloved early examples of American literature. It’s all about content. If content is deemed “inappropriate,” whatever the definition of “inappropriate,” that content could be placed on the chopping block.
According to the American Library Association, this annual event reminds Americans not to take a precious democratic freedom for granted—the freedom to READ. From the ALA website: “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 the freedom to express oneself and the freedom to choose what opinions and viewpoints to consume are both met.”
So for every American who believes in the right to read, it’s time to celebrate this national event. Ask yourself: what book could you never live without? What would you do if someone took that book away?
And some event ideas from the BBW website…
- ‘Make your own banned book’ activity: Local libraries, schools and bookstores could provide both the crafts and space for a day/weekend in order for local community members, including children and youth to create their own ‘banned books’; libraries, schools and booksellers could offer prizes for participation.
- Collaborate with local booksellers and librarians for larger events.
- Capture individuals exercising their right to read banned books on film: Create a Polaroid picture wall of students, patrons and customers who read banned books at your local school, library or bookstore; ask patrons to write their thoughts and feelings about banned books on the white part of the Polaroid.
- Invite authors of banned books for signings and Q&A at your local library or bookstore.
- Draw a picture of the one book you would save if books were being burned; display the pictures on a wall in the children’s section throughout the year.
- Keep a Banned Books Week journal; write your comments and thoughts on Banned Books Week activities.
As students, parents, booksellers, teachers, and book enthusiasts, support Banned Books Week and your freedom to READ in 2009!