Established in 1982 by the late Judith Krug, then director of the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom and a tireless champion of freedom of speech, the annual Banned Books Week promotes free and open access to ideas and information. And it’s a great time for libraries to celebrate the joy of reading, shown in countless studies to be a key factor in determining one’s success in life.
A quick scan of ALA’s list of frequently challenged books reads like a Who’s Who of literary giants. Next month Arlington Public Library presents in person the legendary Judy Blume, a frequent “contributor” to the list, appearing five times over a ten-year period with such titles as “Forever” (7), “Blubber” (30), “Deenie” (42), “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” (60), and “Tiger Eyes” (89).
Books are change agents. They challenge our beliefs and biases. They expose us to different experiences and cultures. They help us learn to think for ourselves and not follow the crowd or cult of public opinion. They can threaten us and they can charm us. They can enliven our spirits and they can cause despair. They honor equally the quotidian and the profound. They can please, they can polarize. Paper or “e,” quarto or quartz: Reading inspires, inflames, evokes and elevates.
Want to know how you can help celebrate Banned Books Week? Commit to reading at least one challenged book. And if you have a child at home, ask him or her to commit to one, too.
We promise it might hurt. And that’s a good thing.