Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

September 13, 2012

Durbin: Read a banned book

Greensburg — Throughout the country, most children have started a new academic year.

Teachers are sending out their lists of required readings, and parents are beginning to gather books. In some cases, classics like "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "The Catcher in the Rye," and "To Kill a Mocking Bird," may not be included in the curriculum or available in the school library due to challenges made by parents or administrators.

Since 1990, the American Library Association's (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has recorded more than 10,000 book challenges. A challenge is a formal, written complaint requesting a book be removed from library shelves or school curriculum. About three out of four of all challenges are to material in schools or school libraries, and one in four to material in public libraries. OIF estimates that less than one-quarter of challenges are reported and recorded.

It is thanks to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, and students that most challenges are unsuccessful and reading materials like "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," "Slaughterhouse Five," the "Harry Potter" series, the "Hunger Games" series, "Looking for Alaska" and "Water for Elephants" remain available.

The most challenged and/or restricted reading materials have been books for children. However, challenges are not simply an expression of a point of view; on the contrary, they are an attempt to remove materials from public use, thereby restricting the access of others. Even if the motivation to ban or challenge a book is well intentioned, the outcome is detrimental. Censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves. For children, decisions about what books to read should be made by the people who know them best Ñ their parents!

In support of the right to choose books freely for ourselves, the ALA and the Greensburg-Decatur County Public Library are sponsoring Banned Books Week Sunday, Sept. 30 to Saturday, Oct. 6. Banned Books Week is the annual celebration of our right to access books without censorship. This year's observance commemorates the most basic freedom in a democratic society Ñ the freedom to read freely Ñ and encourages us not to take this freedom for granted.

Since its inception in 1982, Banned Books Week has reminded us that while not every book is intended for every reader, each of us has the right to decide for ourselves what to read, listen to or view.

The Greensburg-Decatur County Public Library and thousands of libraries and bookstores across the country will celebrate the freedom to read by participating in special events, exhibits, and read-outs that showcase books that have been banned or threatened.

Stop by the Greensburg-Decatur County Public Library now through October 6 and take a look at the Banned Books Week display. It highlights many of the books that have been challenged and/or banned over the years.

You'll find books like "The Adventure of Super Diaper Baby", challenged because it contains the phrase "poo poo head," and "The Kite Runner," challenged for the rape scene, sexual innuendo, and vulgar language.

Pick up a copy of "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl," challenged for sexual material and homosexual themes or "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" which was challenged for profanity, sex, and descriptions of violence. Read a challenged or banned book and enter the contest to win one of three Amazon gift cards. This contest is also available on the Bookmobile and at the Westport branch.

American libraries are the cornerstones of our democracy. Libraries are for everyone, everywhere. Because libraries provide free access to a world of information, they bring opportunity to all people. Now, more than ever, celebrate the freedom to read at your library! Read an old favorite or a new banned book this week.

Stop by the Greensburg-Decatur County Public Library and celebrate your "fREADom."

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