Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Posted on September 29, 2005

The Book Standard is running an interesting series of articles celebrating Banned Books Week, the week that the American Library Association ("ALA") encourages everyone to go out and read all those books that various special interest groups want banned. In this article, Anna Weinberg discusses the issue of banned books.
Last April, the Board of Education in Limestone County, Ala., opted to ban Chris Crutcher's Whale Talk from all its school libraries. In Crutcher's book, a young, biracial girl undergoes a therapy session in which she acts out the role of her racist stepfather, who often calls her, among other things, a "stupid black bitch." A parent of a local high-school student filed a complaint, on the grounds that, though the book "is talking about teamwork and dealing with racism," students who read the book "would be more likely to use the words every day." Upon consideration, a review committee of parents and staff, along with the school superintendent, recommended that it be kept in the school. The school board, however, overruled them, voting instead to ban it. "The truth is, we're not living in an age that is markedly more enlightened than it was 30-40 years ago," says Michael Gorman, president of the American Library Association.

When she heard about the book-banning in Limestone County, Miranda Ball, director of Lawrence County Library, which serves 34,000 people in nearby Moulton, Ala., decided on the perfect theme for her teen summer-reading group: banned books. For her "Readiculous" program, she gathered a group of teens and 20-somethings, stocked up on To Kill a Mockingbird, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, J.K. Rowling's oeuvre and other commonly banned books, and had kids take their pick.

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"People are amazed to hear that a school board would ban Catcher in the Rye or Of Mice and Men," says Gorman. "Most parents worry about people not reading, not what they're reading. The idea that books are being banned is sort of shocking to people."
We couldn't agree more. To celebrate, why not read a banned book this week? Think of how naughty liberated you'll feel as you dive into that banned copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince or Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
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