The American Library Association has asked supporters to modify a canned "letter to the editor" and send it to their local papers to remind people that this is "Banned Books Week." I haven't seen this on the Daily Kos website, so what follows is my modified version:
Throughout the country, a new academic year is underway and teachers are handing out their lists of required reading. But in some cases, classics most of us take for granted -- books 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.
For example, in 1996 Harper Lee’s "To Kill A Mockingbird" was banned from the Lindale,Tex. advanced placement English reading list because the book "conflicted with the values of the community." Imagine living in a town whose values were at odds with Atticus Finch’s! And as recently as 2001 another favorite target of censors, J.D. Salinger’s "The Catcher in the Rye," was challenged by a Summerville, South Carolina school board member on the grounds that it is "a filthy, filthy book."
Since 1990, the American Library Association's (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has recorded more than 10,000 book challenges, including 513 in 2008 alone, an increase from the previous year. 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 challenges are to material in public libraries. OIF estimates that less than one-quarter of challenges are reported and recorded. The most challenged and/or restricted reading materials have been books for children.
What’s disturbing about this is that 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 because censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves.
In support of this freedom, the ALA has designated this week (through October 3rd) as Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of our right to access books without censorship. 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. This year's observance commemorates the most basic freedom in a democratic society—the freedom to read freely—and encourages us not to take this freedom for granted. The American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the ALA; the American Society of Journalists and Authors; the Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores sponsor Banned Books Week. The Library of Congress Center for the Book endorses the observance.
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 @ your library! Read an old favorite or a new banned book this week.