Even in the land of the free, books are being banned from libraries every year.
Take this summer reading list, for example:
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
- The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
- Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
- The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
- The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
As the American Library Association reports, each of these books and many more were banned from libraries in the span of just three years between 2017 and 2020.
Classic works and important new books are taken from the shelves of American libraries to keep the public uninformed and to feed into false hysteria about the effects the books in question may have on society. Banning books is an attempt to shield people from subjects that some find offensive, inappropriate, or radical — and it’s an assault on our intelligence as a common people.
The American Library Association’s annual Banned Books Week takes place the last week of September each year, and encourages freedom in reading and the celebration of free speech.
As the ALA maintains, this event “spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. It brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”
“To censor a book is to damage the framework in which we live,” Jason Reynolds, inaugural Honorary Chair for Banned Books Week 2021, told the National Coalition Against Censorship. “Any time we eliminate or wall off certain narratives, we are not getting a whole picture of the world in which we live. And navigating the world in a way that is closed-off, closed-minded, is poisonous. It means that we limit our vocabulary, which complicates how we communicate with one another. We have to celebrate stories and ensure that all books have a space on the shelves and the opportunity to live in the psyches of our children, as they grow into the human beings who will inherit this wonderful place.”
Banning books is in no way new. According to the Smoky Mountain News, “every repressive regime throughout history has sought to erase knowledge and viewpoints they deemed dangerous. An emperor of China’s Qin dynasty famously burned the works of all Confucian scholars before burying them alive — the scholars, not the works — for good measure. The Spanish inquisition spawned the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a surprisingly long-lived publication outlining forbidden and heretical literature. Orwell’s chilling 1984 was inspired by the mass Nazi and Soviet totalitarian book-burnings, though this ironically didn’t save his novel from being challenged in 1981 for being ‘pro-communist.'”
Questioning whether certain books are appropriate for children is reasonable, as some books may just be too mature or difficult for some young readers. But as the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights states, a person’s use of the library may not be restricted or limited because of age.
We need to promote further enlightenment and learning, not bury our heads in the sand, ignorant to the world around us. Libraries should foster a true desire for awareness and learning by encouraging individuals to read banned books.
Click below to take the Free to Read pledge in favor of more planning, less banning!Whizzco