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Banned Books Week highlights the censored

Clarksville, TN – During the last week of September every year, hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. The 2011 celebration of Banned Books Week will be held from September 24 through October 1. Banned Books Week is the only national celebration of the freedom to read.

It was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,000 books have been challenged since 1982.

There are hundreds of challenges to books in schools and libraries in the United States every year. According to the American Library Association (ALA), there were at least 348 in 2010; the ALA estimates that 70 to 80 percent are never reported.

The 10 most challenged titles of 2010 were:

  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson – Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie – Reasons: offensive language, racism, religious viewpoint, sex education, sexually explicit, violence, unsuited to age group
  3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley – Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit
  4. Crank, by Ellen Hopkins – Reasons: drugs, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit
  5. The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins – Reasons: sexually explicit, violence, unsuited to age group
  6. Lush, by Natasha Friend – Reasons: drugs, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group
  7. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones – Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  8. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich – Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint
  9. Revolutionary Voices edited by Amy Sonnie – Reasons: homosexuality, sexually explicit
  10. Twilight (series), by Stephenie Meyer – Reasons: sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence, unsuited to age group

To support an expanded Banned Books Week, the sponsors have launched a redesigned website, www.bannedbooksweek.org. In addition to providing information about the virtual read-out, it includes an interactive map that shows the location of book challenges in recent years as well as a listing of featured events and a state-by-state listing of libraries, bookstores and other groups that are participating in Banned Books Week.

To provide additional organizational support for Banned Books Week, the current sponsors–the ALA, ABFFE, the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), the Association of American Publishers (AAP), and the National Association of College Stores (NACS)—recruited several new sponsors this year: NCAC, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and PEN American Center (PEN). Project Censored has joined the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress as an endorser of Banned Books Week.

Publishers have increased their support as well. A number of AAP member publishers, including Hachette, Penguin, Random House, Scholastic, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster are providing guidance for the observance through an AAP Banned Books Week Publisher Task Force.

Virtual Read-Out

Readers from across the United States and around the world are demonstrating their support for free speech by participating in a virtual read-out of banned and challenged books that will culminate during the 30th annual Banned Books Week (Sept. 24-Oct. 1), the only national celebration of the freedom to read. Individuals, libraries and bookstores are uploading videos to a special channel on YouTube, submitting either a reading of up to two minutes or a description of a local book challenge of up to three minutes.

The authors of challenged books are also participating in the read-out. Videos of frequently censored authors Judy Blume and Lauren Myracle have recently been posted. Other highly acclaimed and/or frequently challenged authors, including Chris Crutcher, Paolo Bacigalupi, Sarah Dessen, William Joyce, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Jay Asher, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, have also recorded videos that will be posted in coming days. Check the Banned Books Week YouTube Channel daily for new videos.

You can join the Virtual Read-out!

Everyone is invited to create a video of themselves reading from their favorite banned or challenged book and upload it to a special Banned Books Week channel. Videos of challenged authors and other celebrities will be posted on both YouTube and our Videos page in coming days. More information about the read-out is available here.

Ebay Auction

As part of Banned Books Week there is an eBay auction ongoing featuring more 70 pieces by leading artists in the children’s book industry, including Peter Brown, Susan Jeffers, Wendell Minor, Adam Rex and Paul O. Zelinsky. Proceeds from the auction will help support efforts to defend the First Amendment rights of young readers, including the Kids Right to Read Project, which is co-sponsored by the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). Items can be located on ABFFE’s eBay page.

About Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week. BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings. Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections. Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. In 2011, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; National Coalition Against Censorship; National Council of Teachers of English; and PEN American Center also signed on as sponsors.

Follow Banned Books Week on on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube.


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