If you’ve ever been to The Strand bookstore in New York City, you’ve definitely seen the banned book section/bookshelf. Books that have been barred from libraries, schools, and bookstores line the shelves, directly displaying the currently most banned books in America. You can usually spy classics such as Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Animal Farm by George Orwell, as well as more modern books like Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan and any book by John Green.
The week of September 21st to September 27th celebrates banned books, or books that have been censored in the United States due to their prolific, provocative, violent, and explicit content. Libraries, booksellers, and other associations share their love for banned books and their belief in freedom of speech and freedom to read by tweeting with the hashtag #IReadBannedBooks, endorsing the books that have been censored the most, and making promotional videos such as this one from BooksInc:
Unsurprisingly, the number one reason books are banned in the first place is fear. Books have a big influence on those that read them, and parents and community leaders are scared that they will influence their children with values and ideas that they don’t believe in or don’t think are appropriate. But just because someone thinks that something is inappropriate doesn’t mean that they should disallow other people from learning and reading about it.
Restricting someone’s freedom to read and develop their own ideas from what they’ve read is something that should be banned on its own. Who is to say that something valuable can’t be learned from Beloved by Toni Morrison, or the Junie B. Jones series? (Both which have made the most banned books list in the last decade.)
Surprisingly, the number one banned book in America today is the jovial, cartoonish and humorous children’s book series Captain Underpants. Harry Potter has also dominated the list for a while, despite teaching significant lessons to its readers about overcoming adversity, friendship, and growing up.
Celebrate Banned Book Week by picking up one of your old favorites, or challenging yourself and reading something that you’ve never read before off of the list of the most banned books in the last decade (which you can check out here).
Banned Book Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Library Association, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of American Publishers, and the National Association of College Stores.