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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Written by Jon Williams

It’s no secret that libraries broaden minds. All too often, the public library is—through the wealth of material on its shelves—the only place a person might have a chance to encounter and explore viewpoints and stories of people utterly unlike themselves. For that reason, it is essential that each library should be free to choose that material themselves. Since 1982, the American Library Association has proclaimed the last week of September as Banned Books Week, with libraries across the country celebrating the right of patrons to read freely.

Concerns about what young people are learning means that children’s and young adult literature is a sore spot for censorship. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books are the bestselling series of all time; they also faced the most challenges for the decade 2000-2009. More recently, in 2015-2016, popular YA author John Green’s Looking for Alaska came under fire, as did such popular works as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson, and Glass by Ellen Hopkins.

Some of the most beloved and classic books of all time are also on the list of most challenged. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, frequently lauded as perhaps the greatest American novel ever written, is a frequent target for challenges. Other classics that are frequently flagged for challenges include Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, The Color Purple by Alice Walker (currently available on audiobook), Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, and Beloved by Toni Morrison.

These books and so many others that have been challenged make the world (not to mention high school English class) a much richer place, and we owe a debt of gratitude to librarians, teachers, and others who have fought to keep them on bookshelves and in classrooms. Check out our website for a full collection of wonderful audiobooks that are perfect for Banned Books Week.

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