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Locals Celebrate Freedom to Read for Banned Books Week

Censorship is alive and well, as highlighted by the 30th year of Banned Books Week. Local authors, officials, librarians and business owners are teaming up to celebrate the freedom to read.

Locals Celebrate Freedom to Read for Banned Books Week

The importance of the First Amendment and the concept of "intellectual freedom" might not always be readily apparent to most kids, but Banned Books Week is a great opportunity to make those lessons come alive for children—and adults.

Banned Books Week is held annually during the last week of Sept. (Sept. 30-Oct. 6, 2012). The week is an occasion for libraries and bookstores across the U.S. to help folks realize just how real and ongoing a problem censorship is.

In Katonah, children's bookshop Little Joe's Books invited 13 local authors, individuals and familes to record selections from banned books and discuss the role of books in their lives. (A few are posted with this story; you can view the full roster of “Virtual Read-Outs” on Little Joe’s You Tube Channel.)

Owner Jennifer Cook and children's book specialist Genevieve de Botton also planned an event for adults to highlight the importance of next week, titled: "The History of Banned Books and An Approach to Picking Great Books for Our Kids." 

It starts Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. There will be a discussion led by Stephanie Hartwell-Mandella, children's librarian and Pat Humphreys, teen librarian, both from the  Katonah Village Library, and de Botton. The store will also be selling at a discount some of the books banned in previous years all week.

Peter Linz, actor and puppeteer who recently starred in The Muppets, recorded a selection from James and The Giant Peach this week at the bookshop. He said reading for Banned Books Week felt like an "act of defiance in the face of stupidity."

"It's shocking that we are banning any books at all," he said. "I feel indignant that anyone has the gall to deny anyone these literary works."

More than 11,000 books have been challenged (though not necessarily successfully censored) since 1982, the inaugural year of Banned Books Week. According to the American Library Association (ALA), the vast majority of challenges to books are  initiated locally by parents, likely in well-meaning attempts to protect their children. 

Last year, there were 326 challenges reported to the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, based on everything from offensive language, to violence, insensitivity, religious viewpoint and sexual explicitness. In addition to those challenges, the ALA estimates that as many as 60 to 70 percent of challenges may go unreported.

Over the past year, the 10 most challenged titles were:

1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series) by Lauren Myracle 

2. The Color of Earth (series) by Kim Dong Hwa

3. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

4. My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy by Dori Hillestad Butler

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

6. Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

8. What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones

9. Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Among banned and challenged classics you’re likely familiar with are:

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • Ulysses by James Joyce
  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell
  • The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  • Beloved and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

If you’re interested in celebrating Banned Books Week as part of a lesson for your kids—or simply to feel like a rebellious reader—check out these additional resources:

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