Today is the start of Banned Books Week, the one week each year that focuses on all the ways that different books are challenged, banned, and otherwise kept out of the hands of those who want to read them. I think by now you all know where I stand on censorship: everyone has a cause, and censorship and literacy are mine. Banned Books Weeks combines my two favorite causes. It promotes literacy because it encourages everyone to explore books that have been challenged and make a decision for themselves. It fights censorship by making us all more aware of the issue of banned books, and the lunacy surrounding some of the decisions to keep those books off shelves.

Banned Books: How Does it Affect You?

I’ve been asked before why I care so much about Banned Books Week, especially since most of the books on the list are being challenged by schools that I’ve never attended or towns that I’ve never visited. After all, they say, my access to the books isn’t being restricted! Banned Books Week is more than about a few backwards-thinking schools and towns trying to prevent kids from getting nasty ideas about becoming wizards that triumph over evil. It’s about the right to read as a whole, and about preserving the First Amendment rights.

If we give an inch when it comes to protecting those rights, we can expect to have them completely taken away over time. We’ve already lost the right to read what we want without fear of the government reading into our book choices. Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows the FBI to demand access to your library records to determine if you have been reading anything that may indicate that you’re a terrorist. You don’t even have to be suspected of criminal activity for it to happen!

What Can You Do?

It is the responsibility of all of us to keep censorship from becoming an acceptable idea. Whether you’re living in the United States and trying to protect your First Amendment Rights, or living overseas in a country that is known for squashing your right to express yourself, we all have to stand up and fight against it. It’s not really all that hard.

  • Write a blog post about Banned Books Week. If you have a blog, take a few minutes to put together a post letting your readers know about the issue.
  • Speak up when your library attempts to ban a book.
  • Read a banned book. Read more than one! With so many books challenged for a myriad of ludicrous reasons, there is sure to be one on the list that you’ll enjoy!
  • Change your Facebook profile pic to one of the graphics on the Banned Books Week webpage.
  • Attend an event in your area. Check here for different event listings.
  • Attend school board meetings and voice concerns when book challenges are brought up.

Pretty much anything you can do to draw attention to the issue of banned and challenged books is a step in the right direction. Just don’t sit idly by while books are torn off shelves and out of the hands of readers.