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Monday, September 26, 2005

Chapter Thirty-Two, in which Readers are urged to read a banned Book

Elect to Read a Banned Book

Throughout the country, most children are starting a new academic year. Teachers are sending out their lists of required readings, and parents are beginning to gather books. In some cases, classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mocking Bird, may not be included in curriculum or available in the school library due to challenges made by parents or administrators.

Since 1990, the American Library Association's (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom has recorded more than 7,800 book challenges, including 458 in 2003. A challenge is a formal, written complaint requesting a book be removed from library shelves or school curriculum. OIF estimates that less than one-quarter of challenges are reported and recorded. Among the most challenged books are I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou; Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Alice series; and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.

Though some may see challenges as simply an expression of a point of view, they are actually an attempt to remove materials from public use, thereby restricting the access of others. Even if the motivation to ban or challenge a book is well intentioned, the outcome is detrimental. Censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves. For children, decisions about what books to read should be made by the people who should know them best—their parents.

In support of the right to choose books freely for ourselves, the ALA and Mad About Books in Oglesby, as well as thousands of other bookstores and libraries across the country, are sponsoring Banned Books Week (September 24 - October 2, 2005), an annual celebration of our right to access books without censorship. We should not take this right for granted: pick up and read a banned book. It’s YOUR freedom we’re talking about—celebrate it!

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