A little over one week from now will be the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, the bibliophile’s annual celebration of the freedom to read, which this year takes place from September 30-October 6, 2012.
Sometimes we forget in our daily struggles just how important our intellectual freedom really is. Since 1982, more than 11,000 books have been challenged in this country and last year alone there were 326 challenges reported to the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. Most of these occurred on the local level revolving around such things as offensive language, to violence, insensitivity, religious viewpoints, and sexual explicitness. While the majority of these incidents didn’t result in a particular book being actually banned, some did. The ALA estimates that 60-70% of challenges go unreported; in addition, often these challenges and official censorships occur without the local community involved even being aware until after policy has been decided.
To commemorate this milestone anniversary, the Office for Intellectual Freedom is coordinating a “50 State Salute to Banned Books Week” at the core of the American Library Association’s 2012 Read-Out that will also consist of videos from each state proclaiming the importance of the freedom to read.
A visual representation of the places where books have been challenged in the United States can be seen on the ALA’s Mapping Censorship page. In addition to their Virtual Read-Out, events that are part of the “50 State Salute” can be seen in this State-by-state listing.
One of the most inventive and inspiring ideas for Banned Books Week involves a man who will construct and live inside a prison made of stacked copies of banned books at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis for the entire week.
Corey Michael Dalton is a fiction writer and editor with the Saturday Evening Post Society. His week-long project at the Vonnegut Library serves to “protest the treatment of Vonnegut’s masterpiece, “Slaughterhouse-Five,” by a Midwestern school district. Dalton, who also serves on the museum’s advisory board, will be blogging and writing a short story.
We’ve seen, over these many months here at Banned Books Awareness and Reading for Knowledge, just how far some will go to replace the light of knowledge with their narrow and ignorant worldview.
A passage I wrote in a previous article resonates with a renewed sense of purpose this week. “A very disturbing pattern is beginning to emerge among these recent book challenges. One bent on revising history and sweeping the dark stains of humanity under the rug of the world’s collective consciousness. For every book they try in earnest to sweep under the rug, someone will be there to lift a corner and let the air of freedom in.”
What events are taking place at your local school or library to celebrate this important subject? Please share them in the comments below.
I think a far more important question should be what are you doing personally to celebrate your freedom to read?
Don’t just celebrate it in spirit- practice it. Visit your local library or your local bookstore and pick up a book- any book- and read. Explore the worlds of wonder and fantasy, learn about history, start a new hobby, or develop a new skill. The endless possibilities that books provide is the right of all sentient beings.
The video linked below is a piece that I put together to celebrate the 2011 Banned Book Week that showcases some of the titles challenged over the years along with some thought-provoking facts. Above all else- remember to read, learn, grow, and share the knowledge!
For more information on the Banned Books Awareness and Reading for Knowledge project and the complete list of titles covered, please visit the official website at http://www.deepforestproductions.com/BBARK.html