I Read Banned Books
When I was in elementary school my best friend and I would often lament the fact that we didn’t have any causes to fight for. I was oddly obsessed with the 60’s for an eight-year-old and having grown up in a nice suburban town in northern New Jersey I genuinely believed that the grown-ups (who grew up during the 60’s of course) had already fixed what needed to be fixed.
I’m a little bit older now, and hopefully wiser, and realize that while the number of people and causes that need my help and voice sometimes seem never-ending I’m pretty sure my eight-year-old self would be happy to know that I have found one that I am not only passionate about but one where I think (I hope) I can truly make a difference. Helping to instill the love of reading in children, all children, every day. And working to create and promote books that will hopefully make whatever they are going through at the time a little easier on them. Maybe that sounds cheesy but like my mentor Kathleen Kelly from the movie You’ve Got Mail, said, “When you read a book as a child it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.”
Which is why I was so thrilled to see that in 2015 Banned Books Week is celebrating Young Adult Literature! In a recent blog post Chris Finan, director of the American Booksellers for Free Expression, notes that 311 books were challenged in 2014 but that the number doesn’t really cover the full picture since the ALA estimates that roughly 80% of challenges go unreported. Of those 311 report cases there were efforts to censor YA books by Sherman Alexie, Stephen Chbosky, Cory Doctorow, John Green, Ellen Hopkins, David Levithan, Stephenie Meyer, Jodi Picoult, Marjane Satrapi, and Raina Telgemeier. Not cool world, not cool.
If I were a more ambitious person I would vow right here and now to read every challenged title written by the authors listed above. But this is the real world and I am frankly not that fast a reader so I’m going to have to make due with picking just one. My selection is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. This was the number one most challenged title of 2014. If I can’t read them all I figure I’d better start at the top and I’ve never read it which is crazy, I know.
Vowing to read a banned or challenged book during Banned Books week is a great way to show support but it doesn’t have to stop there. The Banned Books website has all kinds of amazing resources for those who want to get involved. On their events page you can find all kinds of events that are happening in your area during the week. If you don’t see your city or state listed have no fear. For the last few years Banned Books Week has also been hosting virtual Read-Outs—a continuous reading of banned/challenged books—on their YouTube channel. You can find details on how to submit a video of you reading your favorite banned or challenged book here. For those of us who like to wear our hearts on our sleeves, or our Facebook profiles, you can also download this Twibbon [insert image] and add it to your profile picture to show support. Now tell me, which books will you all be reading next week?