This is Banned Books Week, an annual observance intended to underscore the freedom Americans have to read whatever they choose, including books that others might seek to ban.
A library in Bloomington, Ill., is displaying photos of students and others, holding their favorite challenged or banned book. With those photos is a quote from each person stating, “I chose this book because ...”
The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis kicked off an inaugural art show this week, “Banned Books Recovered,” in which area artists have reimagined the covers of banned books.
The list of such works probably includes age-old favorites like “Alice in Wonderland,” and more recent selections such as the Harry Potter series. Or banned books everyone has heard about, such as J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” and Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Since 1990, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has recorded more than 10,000 book challenges. Roughly 3 out of every 4 recorded challenges involve material in schools or school libraries, and the library association estimates that only about a third of challenges are actually reported.
Most folks who seek to limit access to books have good intentions. They object to the language in the book or perhaps even the politics. They might see the book as too racy or maybe even sacrilegious.
They might even be parents concerned that a particular book might be inappropriate for their own children.
Parents, of course, should have that choice. They should be able to decide what books their own children can read.
But they shouldn’t be making that choice for everyone else’s children.
You say the book is too controversial? Well, let us just read a few pages and decide for ourselves.
Since 1982, Banned Books Week has celebrated the prerogative to pick up a book or put it down.
Public libraries are the cornerstones of democracy. They provide free access to a world of information and thus bring opportunity to all of us.
The freedom to read is protected by our Constitution, and any effort to silence a minority or to enforce the majority opinion weakens our democracy. Americans believe in the free marketplace of ideas, and we should be trusted to make our own decisions about what to read and what to believe.
So, by all means, join this week’s celebration. Stop by your local library and pick up a banned book.