Banned Books Week – Celebrate the Freedom to Read!

jhill-BBW-2014Where The Wild Things Are, The Great Gatsby, Captain Underpants, and Harry Potter. What do all these books have in common? They’ve all been banned at one time or another.

Can you imagine if someone tried to ban your favorite book just because they don’t agree with the ideas or messages contained within? This happens across the globe every single day – and is the whole point of Banned Books Week.

September 21 marks the start of Banned Books Week, an annual event that celebrates the freedom to read and express ideas through literature. Founded in 1982, Banned Books Week highlights the freedom to express ideas and the value of free and open access to information through events, library displays, author talks, handbooks on censorship and more. This year’s theme has an added focus on comic books, which receive extra targeting for censorship due to their visual nature.

It baffles me to live in a world where Bone (whose main character is featured on the cover of this year’s Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Banned Books Handbook), a delightful, fun and epic children’s comic, was one of the most-banned books of 2013. 2013! In one case, a person took offense that a character smoked cigars and there’s a scene or two in a bar.  In another, people pointed to it being politically and racially offensive? In the words of author Jeff Smith, uh, what??

I learned this weekend that Bone has been challenged on the basis of “political viewpoint, racism and violence.” I have no idea what book these people read. After fielding these and other charges for a while now, I’m starting to think such outrageous accusations (really, racism?) say more about the people who make them than about the books themselves.

In cases like this, it sounds more like an opportunity to have a discussion with your kids about smoking and alcohol than to remove anything that makes passing reference to it from the shelves. And that’s exactly why we have organizations like the American Library Association and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund backing Banned Books Week, speaking out against censorship and working to keep literature on the shelf, where we can all enjoy it. You know, if you want to. Because if you don’t like something, just don’t read it. It’s really that simple.

You can find a Banned Books Week event near you by checking out their website. Or, if you’re really interested in learning about banned books, you can check out this list of fantastic resources.

Read on, friends.

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