I had two kids taking classes at Scottsdale Community College one summer, and sometimes waited on campus between teen taxi runs. They always knew exactly where to find me — in a building where text from the First Amendment is painted across a wall in bold letters. Sitting under the words always felt just right somehow.
Most Americans profess their love for the First Amendment, but some have a hard time practicing what they preach — choosing instead to advocate the banning of books with ideas or words they find offensive. There’s a special week created just for these folks. It’s called Banned Books Week, and it’s held the last week of September each year.
I started my personal celebration of Banned Books Week a few days ago by reading a collection of original stories by censored writers. “Places I Never Meant to Be” is edited by Judy Blume — who’s written an introduction that addresses the history of book censorship in America and offers tips for fellow believers in books, banned or otherwise.
Those of you with a “run right out and do what’s forbidden” streak will want to hit your local libraries and book stores before the rest of the pack gets there. It’s a great week to take these books home and give them some love. The American Library Association has a list of banned books on its website. Being bad has never been easier, or felt quite as fun.
Often it’s parents who seek to remove books from classrooms and libraries. Blume suspects they’re “driven by the need to feel in control of their children’s lives” and “afraid of exposing their children to ideas different than their own.” The effects of censorship, says Blume, can be especially chilling for writers, young readers and communities.
There was a time when parents could keep the cat in the bag, but it’s long past. Hide or lock away those books if you must. Your children will still find the content, and relish it all the more because you’ve forbidden it. Better to spend the time getting comfortable talking with your child about diverse ideas and situations they’ll encounter in both books and real life.
Blume’s “Places I Never Meant to Be” introduction notes that censorship often happens “when you least expect it.” Don’t assume, if a book has never been banned at your child’s school or local library, that it simply can’t happen. Be aware and informed, says Blume. And familiarize yourself with anti-censorship resources now, including the following:
♥ National Coalition Against Censorship at www.ncac.org
♥ American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom at www.ala.org/oif
♥ People for the American Way at www.pfaw.org
Check with local libraries and book stores for news of events celebrating this year’s Banned Books Week, which runs Sept 24-Oct 1. Or visit the American Libraries Association for tips on organizing your own event. Folks who “You Tube” can learn more about a virtual reading of banned books at www.bannedbooksweek.org.
Turns out I won’t need to hit the SCC campus this week to appreciate their support of the First Amendment. It’s evident in their online offerings related to Banned Books Week, which you can explore by clicking here. Of course, you can always head to my favorite SCC sofa if it makes you feel better. Take a banned book and a friend along.
Note: Click here to enjoy a “Jacket Copy” post on Banned Books Week from the Los Angeles Times. Click here to learn about the National Book Festival taking place this weekend on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Click here to learn more about the Arizona Library Association.
Coming up: A tale of teen angst