Did you know that this week is Banned Books Week?
Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.
It’s also interesting to me that on the Radcliffe Publishing Course top 100 novels of the 20th century list there are 46 titles that have been challenged. Of those I have read:
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
1984, by George Orwell
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
There are many more that I plan to read and just haven’t got to yet. There are also many more books that have been challenged that don’t make it on the classics lists. Some I have read, and some I have not. Some I plan to read, and some I never will.
Of course, as I look at these lists of books that have regularly been challenged as books that should not be available on library shelves it makes me ask just one question:
Who is really responsible for what a child reads?
It seems like the number one reason any book has made it on the list is because a parent found the content questionable for their child and decided that the library should just not have it available for any person. I think it’s a dangerous road we tread when we start to say things like, “I find this in bad taste, therefore nobody should read it.” I think it’s even more dangerous when we start to rely so heavily on another person’s opinion that we don’t stop to question what their motives behind suggesting that something be banned might be.
I don’t think it should be up to the libraries, the schools, or any parent/child advocacy groups to decide what books are proper for my child. I also don’t think that there are any books that will be proper for every child and every family. The choices of which books are to be read and when really should be left up to the parents. There should never be any reason for us to completely ban or censor any book.
Do you think there are any instances when specific books should be banned?