Our friends at the American Library Association (ALA) organize a variety of library-related occasions. We celebrate National Library Week, Library Card Sign-Up Month, National Bookmobile Day, and many, many more. They’re all great and they’re all important. But, one of my favorite events is Banned Books Week (September 27-October 3rd), a seven-day celebration of the freedom to read.
Believe it or not, there are still places in this country where library books are formally challenged and even pulled from the shelves. As library professionals, we have an obligation to fight censorship. We know that when the right book finds the right reader, it can change or even save a life. What happens when that book is not allowed to see the light of day inside a public library? How many children, teens, and adults are missing out on revelatory reading experiences?
The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom keeps statistics on every area of library censorship, including how and why materials are challenged and which books have been challenged throughout the years. Many of the most beloved, iconic, and awarded books are regulars on the ALA’s yearly list of Top 10 Challenged Books: The Catcher in the Rye, the Harry Potter series, the Captain Underpants series, and The Bluest Eye, to name a few. Judy Blume’s books, which have shepherded many young readers through adolescence, have frequently been targeted for censorship. It’s Judy Blume, in fact, who offers this fantastic rallying cry against book censorship: “Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.”