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Books Take Us to Magical Places & Adventures; Reading is Freedom: How to Mark Banned Books Week


How do you “mark” the Freedom to Read week?  Note I didn’t use the word, “celebrate?”  I thank my lucky stars that I have been given the blessing and luxury to read. And write. Anything… (almost). 

As a writer and a freedom-loving American citizen, I can hardly believe that we’re in this situation.  

Let’s talk about this. No more shusshing.  🤫Unless it’s your favorite librarian. Silence begets censorship. 

Regrettably, it’s also Banned Book Week 😥 ~  (October 1-7), an annual event that highlights the value of free and open access to information. And today is the day of action.

How bad is it?  

January 1 – August 31, 2023: 3,923 total titles targeted for censorship. New reporting data from the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom. Unite Against Book Bans logo.

It’s bad. Very, very bad.  And not in a Lemony Snicket’s kind of way.

A record 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship, a 32% increase over the 1,858 unique titles targeted in 2021.

58% of the reported book challenges targeted books and materials in school libraries, classroom libraries or school curricula; 41% of book challenges targeted materials in public libraries, according to the authorities at the American Library Association. 

Of course ~ or I hope and trust that it’s self-evident, that reading is a cornerstone of democracy. 

Why limit what others can read??

Why do some folks get so riled up on social media and say things that my mother would’ve washed out our mouths with soap if we ever uttered such words, and kick and scream about folks in authority telling them what to do (“You can’t make me wear a mask!  I am free,” was a battle cry during the pandemic. )

Yet why is it ok to tell others what to read?

In their own homes or at the library!

If anyone doesn’t want to read something or they don’t want their children to read it, then do so.  That’s your right. Your personal privilege. Set up guard rails for your life.  Don’t dictate to others, for heaven’s sake.

If you don’t like someone’s story because it doesn’t align with your values, read something that is affirming to you.

Why the crusade? 

News flash ~ we don’t want the “protection.” We can determine what books we read.

I have read many of the so-called “banned books” and I’m shocked they are on such a list. 

I honestly believe that the ones doing the banning haven’t popped open the full text.  

Even the Bible has some dodgy passages that under certain scrutiny might not see the light of day…

I know this because I also read scripture passages every morning.

And because I read (wink), I have read that too often, the book burners select some passages in books they were told appeal to the “others” and then the banners storm the gates. It’s this sinister notion of “otherness” that contributes so greatly to grievance. And violence.

Again, you’d have to read history to learn that book burning in the past caused more harm than any crusading good.

My research for an upcoming YA novel includes the heartbreaking Mayan book burning carried out by conquering colonials. In the name of religion and suppression.  And so, we lost all that knowledge. For what?

Then there are the Nazi’s and their book burning.  How’d that end? 

The final chapter of book burning ~ in any era ~ doesn’t achieve what the censors hope they do. And we lose far more in the process… 

Censorship is evil.

We must rail against it.  

I looked up some other big book burnings in history:

  • A scroll written by the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah (burnt by King Jehoiakim) 

  • Protagoras’ “On the Gods” (by Athenian authorities) 

  • Democritus’ writings (by Plato) 

  • Chinese philosophy books (by Emperor Qin Shi Huang and anti-Qin rebels) 

  • Books of pretended prophecies (by Roman authorities)

Here is the Freedom To Read Statement ~ the key elements. For the full text, follow the link at the “end.”

The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack. Private groups and public authorities in various parts of the country are working to remove or limit access to reading materials, to censor content in schools, to label “controversial” views, to distribute lists of “objectionable” books or authors, and to purge libraries. These actions apparently rise from a view that our national tradition of free expression is no longer valid; that censorship and suppression are needed to counter threats to safety or national security, as well as to avoid the subversion of politics and the corruption of morals. We, as individuals devoted to reading and as librarians and publishers responsible for disseminating ideas, wish to assert the public interest in the preservation of the freedom to read.

Most attempts at suppression rest on a denial of the fundamental premise of democracy: that the ordinary individual, by exercising critical judgment, will select the good and reject the bad. We trust Americans to recognize propaganda and misinformation, and to make their own decisions about what they read and believe. We do not believe they are prepared to sacrifice their heritage of a free press in order to be “protected” against what others think may be bad for them. We believe they still favor free enterprise in ideas and expression.

These efforts at suppression are related to a larger pattern of pressures being brought against education, the press, art and images, films, broadcast media, and the Internet. The problem is not only one of actual censorship. The shadow of fear cast by these pressures leads, we suspect, to an even larger voluntary curtailment of expression by those who seek to avoid controversy or unwelcome scrutiny by government officials.

Such pressure toward conformity is perhaps natural to a time of accelerated change. And yet suppression is never more dangerous than in such a time of social tension. Freedom has given the United States the elasticity to endure strain. Freedom keeps open the path of novel and creative solutions, and enables change to come by choice. Every silencing of a heresy, every enforcement of an orthodoxy, diminishes the toughness and resilience of our society and leaves it the less able to deal with controversy and difference.

Now as always in our history, reading is among our greatest freedoms. The freedom to read and write is almost the only means for making generally available ideas or manners of expression that can initially command only a small audience. The written word is the natural medium for the new idea and the untried voice from which come the original contributions to social growth. It is essential to the extended discussion that serious thought requires, and to the accumulation of knowledge and ideas into organized collections.

We believe that free communication is essential to the preservation of a free society and a creative culture. We believe that these pressures toward conformity present the danger of limiting the range and variety of inquiry and expression on which our democracy and our culture depend. We believe that every American community must jealously guard the freedom to publish and to circulate, in order to preserve its own freedom to read. We believe that publishers and librarians have a profound responsibility to give validity to that freedom to read by making it possible for the readers to choose freely from a variety of offerings.

The freedom to read is guaranteed by the Constitution. Those with faith in free people will stand firm on these constitutional guarantees of essential rights and will exercise the responsibilities that accompany these rights.

You can read the full statement at the Unite Against Book Bans page 

What are your favorite books?  Any on the banned list?!

Please do follow the links and see what you can do to preserve the right to read what you choose.  It’s your right. 

On October 7, 2023, Banned Books and the Library Association are asking everyone to take at least one action to help defend books from censorship and to stand up for the library staff, educators, writers, publishers, and booksellers who make them available!

Seventy years ago, leaders from across the literary world joined together in writing to condemn attacks on free expression. The statement at the heart of that endeavor, the Freedom to Read Statement, was authored by the American Library Association and Association of American Publishers over a period of several days. It begins with this timeless observation:

The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack.    

A resurgence of attacks on the freedom to read again threatens our democracy. Calls for book bans, the adoption of unconstitutional legislation, and campaigns to criminalize the work of librarians, teachers, booksellers and other individuals for distributing materials protected by the First Amendment threaten our fundamental liberties. 

Recognizing that the battle to preserve our freedoms is as old as the freedoms themselves, the American Library Association and the Association of American Publishers have reconvened on this 70th Anniversary of the Freedom to Read statement to reaffirm its timeless message, joined by the Authors Guild and American Booksellers Association. Together, we recommit to the proposition that the freedom to read is essential to our democracy and the birthright of all persons regardless of their beliefs or political persuasion.

They, and we the people, invite Americans who believe in the freedom to read to sign onto their campaign.  Speak up. Speak out.  No more shusshhing. 

Illustration that reads Let Freedom Read Day. Artwork (c) American Library Association.

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