For the last 35 years, one week per year has been set aside as a reminder of our right to read; especially if it’s something someone else don’t want you to see. Starting Sunday and lasting through Sept. 30, Banned Books Week is being promoted by various groups including the American Library Association.
“Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries,” according to the Banned Books Week Coalition.
Disturbingly, there was a 17 percent increase in book censorship complaints in 2016, according to the ALA. The best way to combat this trend is to read a contested book for yourself. Out of 323 challenges reported to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2016 are:
1. “This One Summer” written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
2. “Drama” written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
3. “George” by Alex Gino
4. “I Am Jazz” written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
5. “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan
6. “Looking for Alaska” by John Green
7. “Big Hard Sex Criminals” written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
8. “Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread” by Chuck Palahniuk
9. “Little Bill” (series) written by Bill Cosby and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood
10. “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell
There’s nothing wrong with monitoring your family’s reading habits. What is wrong is to issue blanket rules of taste. Just because you’ve decided something is inappropriate, it doesn't mean everyone else must live by your same standard. Freedom of expression is one of those cornerstones of a free society which we all too often take for granted. The price we must pay for enjoying this luxury is sticking up for free speech, even — and especially — when it’s controversial.