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Davis Journal

Let Freedom Read: Banned Book Week 2023

Aug 31, 2023 01:14PM ● By Megan Gleason

In a world that champions the freedom of expression and the power of knowledge, it is disheartening to witness the recent rise of book banning in school libraries. A space traditionally dedicated to fostering intellectual curiosity and encouraging diverse perspectives is increasingly being subjected to censorship. With the new school year started, the topic is a concern to many school librarians across the country. Book banning is not a new thing; historically there have been many books challenged throughout the years. This is why in 1982, activists and the American Library Association (ALA) created Banned Book Week.

Banned Book Week is a celebration of the most challenged books every year, not only within school libraries but bookstores and public libraries. The point of this celebration is to bring awareness to intellectual freedom and the importance of the right to access diverse ideas. Typically, Banned Book Week is held in September but has been moved to Oct. 1-7 for the 2023 celebration with the theme of “Let Freedom Read,” serving as a reminder that the freedom to read is a fundamental right that should be protected and celebrated. 

“This is a dangerous time for readers and the public servants who provide access to reading materials,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “Readers, particularly students, are losing access to critical information, and librarians and teachers are under attack for doing their jobs.” 

The importance of Banned Book Week is to realize that while society grows and changes there will be topics considered more controversial than others at any given time. A lot of books now considered “classics” and commonly taught as school curriculum are books that have been challenged in the past such as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Catcher in the Rye,” and “1984.” All of these books have been heavily contested in the past due to their themes and content. Even well-loved books such as “Harry Potter,” “Where the Wild Things Are” and “A Wrinkle in Time” have not been spared from protests. 

In recent times, the most challenged books are those revolving around or featuring LGBTQ+ topics or characters. However, that is just one of many topics being focused upon to be removed from not just school libraries but public libraries as well. Books containing historical context or biographical accounts have also been targeted. 

Banned Book Week serves as a poignant reminder that the right to access information and explore a multitude of viewpoints is essential for the development of well-rounded individuals. By engaging in thoughtful conversations, educators, parents, and communities can navigate the challenges posed by controversial literature while upholding the principles of intellectual freedom and fostering a lifelong love of learning.