Celebrate your right to read

September 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Featured, News

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” – Ray Bradbury, American science fiction writer.

When there’s a discussion about banned books, Ray Bradbury’s name is often mentioned. The writer, who died in June of this year at the age of 91, was always a staunch supporter of freedom of expression. His most well-known work, the dystopian novel Farenheit 451, has had its own share of challenges since it was first published in 1953, and has been banned in several school districts.

The fact that the book is about the evils of book banning and censorship is an ironic twist.  One of the main themes of the story is that a government which tries to suppress freedom should be opposed.  When the book was first written, anyone advocating government opposition was seen as a threat by groups that claimed to have all the answers (i.e., McCarthyism).

Next week, we all have a chance to show how much we appreciate the writings of Bradbury, and many other authors of banned or censored works. Banned Books Week 2012 (Sept. 30 to Oct. 6) is a time to highlight the value of free and open access to information. It is a time when the entire book community (libraries, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers and readers) come together in shared support of the freedom to seek and express ideas – even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

Boyd County Public Library has several ways you can get involved. First – spend “An Afternoon in Exile” at the Main Branch this Sunday, Sept. 30. All you have to do is show up at 2 p.m. with your favorite banned or challenged book, and read a passage from it. If you don’t have a copy, don’t worry – I’m sure the library does.

There will also be interactive displays throughout the week at both the Main and Kyova branches, and a contest to see who can match the quotes with the proper banned book. The winner will receive a copy of the banned book of their choice.

And we’ve decided to take the celebration online this year, with a Virtual Read-Out. Videos (no more than 2 minutes long) can be submitted by anyone as long as it includes a reading from a banned or challenged book. Just upload the video to the BCPL Facebook page, and we will select the best couple of videos to win a special Banned Books bracelet. Everyone who submits a video will receive a BBW button.

 The video must include information on where and why the book was banned or challenged, and you might also wish to add your thoughts on the importance of keeping that particular book on library shelves. If you are camera-shy, you can submit a video montage that centers on banned/challenged books. Need a list of banned books? Visit www.ala.org

As we prepare to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, the American Library Association tells us that book banning efforts were alive and well in 2011. Its Office for Intellectual Freedom received 326 reports regarding attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves. A challenge is defined as “a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness.”

 At Boyd County Public Library, challenges to books are pretty rare. Director Debbie Cosper said there have only been a handful of complaints during her nine years at BCPL.

Nationwide, the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of last year include many popular titles, such as The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (challenged for: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; and violence), as well as the classic, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (challenged for offensive language and racism).

Others on that list are:

  • Ttyl; ttfn; l8r, gr8r (series) by Lauren Myracle
  • The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa
  • My Mom’s Having a Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy by Dori Hillestad Butler
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
  • Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar

Here are a few final thoughts on the subject, from a few other folks you might have heard of:

“The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.” – Oscar Wilde.

“Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end there.” – Clare Booth Luce.

“Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.” – Mark Twain.


Leigh Scaggs

About Leigh Scaggs

A long time supporter of digital emancipation and proclaimer of obfuscatory testaments, I have been a proud supporter of bits and bytes for nearly 20 years. With that much chronological highway behind me I'm cognizant enough of the fact that advancing age does kill brain cells and observant enough to notice that it's only killing the weak ones.

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