Blogger Emily Mroczek-Bayci

Diving Deeper into Banned Books Week

It’s easy to get excited about Banned Books Week, to cheerlead the freedom to read and make displays of titles that will make a jaw drop “How could that book have ever been banned?”

Banned Books Week 2019, the annual celebration of the freedom to read, will be held September 22-28

As I got to working onI my banned books display this September (and yes I did create an eye catching display– credit to all the brilliant people that did it before me on Pinterest).

I got to asking a few questions–

How accurate is it that these books were “banned” or “challenged?”

What exactly am I trying to accomplish with this banned books display?

The ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee has done some great blog posts that look deeper at the meaning of banned and challenged books, how you can productively incorporate them into programs and how to check what is real versus “fake.”

ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has a great annually updated list of frequently challenged books in libraries, schools and the media.

However, as quoted from the advocacy website “The Top Ten lists are only a snapshot of book challenges.Surveys indicate that 82-97% of book challenges – documented requests to remove materials from schools or libraries – remain unreported and receive no media.”

If you hear about a book being challenged or banned, report it. Talk about why the difference between a book being challenged or banned and why books were challenged or banned. We can encourage people to start thinking deeper about these titles.

Some discussion questions from Justin Azevedo that I thought were very helpful as a starting point are:

  • “This book was labeled as inappropriate for readers your age because of _______. Did you notice any of those things while you were reading?”
  • “Would there be any people who you would recommend not read this book? What about people you think should read this book?”
  • “This book has won awards, and is very popular. Books like that often get challenged in in schools and libraries. Why do you think that might be?”

As you and your library are celebrating the freedom to read this month I encourage you to think deeper about how you can increase accurate awareness about banned and challenged books.

2 comments

  1. Lisa

    Hello, Your post gathers a number of helpful resources to think about. I had one question, if you could clarify. I’m not sure what you mean when you write, “how to check what is real versus ‘fake.'” Do you mean books that are reported as challenged but they really weren’t? Books that were challenged but there was no real basis for the challenge? If you could say more I would be interested. Thanks for your time.

  2. Emily Mroczek Bayci

    Hi Lisa thanks for the comment and asking for more clarification checking what is real vs. what is fake! I mean a little bit of both comments. I think that it is important to fully understand why a book was banned or challenged. If someone knows why a book was challenged then they can determine for themselves if it is an appropriate reason or not. I also think that the “banned” label can get thrown around easily and by knowing what constitutes as a banned or challenged book and where to officially able to report challenges, we can make it easier to understand. Hope this helps!

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