Thursday, October 02, 2008

Celebrate Your Freedom to Read

Every year at the end of September, the American Library Association joins with other groups to celebrate an important freedom. During "Banned Books Week," they remind Americans not to take this precious freedom for granted. This year the week runs from September 27 through October 4. For obvious reasons, the week hasn't received much attention as we've been caught up in Presidential politics and an economic firestorm.

But what better illustration can there be of the importance of this First Amendment freedom? We can read about the candidates as described by themselves and also by those who see them as the greatest or the worst to lead. We can read about what happened in the past that affects us now – as it was written, not as the winners/survivors would like to have had it written.

The ALA describes Banned Books Week (BBW) this way:

BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.

During the week, librarians, teachers, and booksellers feature books that have been challenged in attempt to ban them. In this way, they "…teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society."

Maybe Noam Chomsky said it best: “If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.”

So celebrate – go read a banned or challenged book! There are plenty to choose from, starting with To Kill a Mockingbird, through The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, right on up to the Harry Potter series.