Censorship is alive and well in America. And the fight against it has many fronts.

Led by the Christian Right, public school boards, teachers, public libraries, and public colleges and universities are all too often pressured to eliminate books from curricula, reading and recommended reading lists, and public library shelves.
Fortunately, The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) the American Library Association and other major organizations sponsor the annual Banned Books Week, “the only national celebration of the freedom to read.” Thousands of libraries and bookstores will sponsor events and exhibits during Banned Books Week, September 24 — October 1, — speaking-out against attempts to censor books and celebrating the freedom to read.

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom received 547 reports of challenges — or attempts to remove books from schools and libraries — in 2004. Robert Cormier’s “The Chocolate War” was the most challenged book of last year. They also maintain a list of the 100 most censored titles.

Other sponsors of Banned Books Week include the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores. Banned Books Week is also endorsed by the Center for the Book of the Library of Congress.

This year, the ABSFFE has a Banned Books Week Handbook, and the American Library Association has a Banned Books Week Kit.  Both have lots of resources, many of them, free.

There are Banned Books Week posters available to download.  And of course, there are Banned Books Week tee-shirts, buttons and bumperstickers.

The American Library Association kit goes for $35 and includes three posters, a list of titles that have been challenged over the last year, 100 bookmarks and a Banned Books Week pin.  

One suggested activity is to hand out the Campaign for Reader Privacy bookmarks and petition urging Congress to restore the safeguards for bookstore and library privacy that were eliminated by the PATRIOT Act.  The bookmarks can be ordered free from the American Booksellers Association by calling ABA at (800) 637-0037, ext. 6635.  The petition can be downloaded.

The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom has a host of resources for Banned Books Week, including a discussion of book burning in history.

In one episode this year, a Colorado newspaper reported on February 3:

“…. a book that was being used as part of an English assignment was confiscated from freshmen at Norwood [Colorado] High School due to references of paganism and an alleged magnitude of profanity.

“Here in Norwood, a small group of parents sent letters to Superintendent Bob Conder, expressing their concern over, “Bless Me, Ultima,” a book being used in the classroom as a literature book. Conder said the books, about 2 dozen in total costing $6.99 each, were pulled from the classroom, and designated to be destroyed. The parents approached the superintendent and asked that they be able to burn the books instead of the school janitor destroying them.

“Conder granted them their request…. ”

Mark your calendars!

Banned Books Week:
September 24 — October 1, 2005

[Crossposted from Talk to Action]

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