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Tales from Utah Valley: Say no to censorship: Read a banned book

October 7, 2018

"The Giver" by Lois Lowry. (Handout)

Last week was Banned Books Week, and many libraries around the country held special events to encourage people to, basically, read whatever they want. The week occurs every year at the end of September to celebrate the freedom to read. But, some may wonder why bring attention to banned books and even — are books still banned today?

According to the American Library Association (ALA), a banned book is described as a book that has been challenged, removed or restricted from libraries because of the objections of a person or group of people. Based on this, books are, in fact, still being banned.

According to the ALA, hundreds of books are challenged or banned every year from classrooms and public libraries. In 2017, 416 different books were challenged or banned.

“While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read,” it reads at http://www.ala.org. To further the cause of the freedom to read, Banned Books Week was born in the 1980s.

On Orem Public Library’s Facebook page, readers were encouraged to “oppose censorship and support intellectual freedom” by reading a book that has been banned. Some examples that the library’s post highlighted are “Gone With the Wind,” by Margaret Mitchell, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck, “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins and “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green.

On Lehi City Library’s Facebook page, readers were asked to look through lists of banned books and come up with some of their favorites. Spanish Fork Library’s Facebook page included a video showing some popular books that have been banned.

When I read through the list of most commonly challenged books, I thought about what a shame it would be for some of them to not be read by others. Shouldn’t everyone be able to decide for themselves whether or not to check out such literary jewels as “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling, “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson, “Snow Falling on Cedars” by David Guterson or “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain at their local libraries?

It might be interesting to read through some of the justifications given for books to be challenged or banned at libraries in the United States. At www.ala.org, there are reasons listed for frequently banned books. Most often, the books seem to be challenged because of perceived offensive material.

Other reasons include unsuited for age group, political viewpoint, violence and in the case of “The Holy Bible,” which was one of the top 10 most challenged books in 2015, for religious viewpoint.

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