'Banned Books Week' celebrates freedom to read—October 5, 2007
Each year, at the end of September, libraries, booksellers and readers celebrate “Banned Books Week.” The name is meant to be provocative, but is also slightly misleading, because what is being celebrated during “Banned Books Week” is the freedom to read and access information based on personal choice and need. This is an opportunity to commemorate and encourage intellectual freedom.
The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom also uses “Banned Books Week,” celebrated from September 29 – October 6 this year, to publish its annual list of most challenged books. Topping this list for 2006 is Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s picture book “and Tango makes three” based on the true story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who were allowed to hatch and nurture their own chick.
Also appearing on the 2006 list was Alvin Schwartz’s series of spooky short stories based on folklore but written for elementary readers that includes “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” “More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” and “Scary Stories 3 : More Tales to Chill Your Bones.”
Books written for young adults often fall into the challenged category because they deal with emerging sexuality, contain strong language or refer to use of drugs or alcohol by young people. The 2006 list includes the “Alice” books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things” by Carolyn Mackler, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, “Athletic Shorts” by Chris Crutcher and “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier.
ALA’s 2006 list of most challenged books is finished off with two titles for adults by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, “The Bluest Eye” and “Beloved,” the first telling a painful story about childhood, the second the almost epic tale of a woman escaping from slavery.
Are these books the right read for everyone? Certainly not, but that is the choice you can make for yourself and your children by examining them at the Hastings Public Library. And that is precisely the freedom that “Banned Books Week” celebrates.