Did you ever read "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" as a kid? How about "To Kill A Mockingbird"? Or one of the "Harry Potter" books?
This week is Banned Books Week, an event that spotlights past and ongoing efforts to ban or challenge particular books--including the titles mentioned above--to demonstrate the importance of the freedom to read and the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. The American Library Association notes, "Intellectual freedom--the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular--provides the foundation for Banned Books Week." Here's a look at the challenging of books from the past decade, By the Numbers:4,660 - total challenges of books in American libraries1,536 - challenges due to "sexually explicit" material (the most oft-cited reason for banning a book, followed by "offensive language" and "unsuited to age group")48 - percent of challenges that were initiated by parents37 - percent of challenges of books that were in classrooms30 - percent of challenges of books that were in school libraries4 - number of Judy Blume's books among the 100 most frequently challenged books1 - rank of "And Tango Makes Three," by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, on the 2010 challenged books list
The celebration of Banned Books Week does have some detractors--one columnist argued that it unfairly maligns parents concerned about what their children are reading: "If you complain that your 8-year-old kid shouldn't be reading a book with lots of sex, violence or profanity until he or she is a little older, you're not a good parent; you're a would-be book-banner." Certainly, this is no 1984 (which is on the banned books list, ironically), but there is still value in cherishing and celebrating the freedom to read. What about you--will you be celebrating Banned Books Week? Do you think censorship in schools is sometimes appropriate?Holly Munson works in Public Programs at the National Constitution Center.