‘Let freedom read’ campaign celebrates banned books

OBy Kristen Saunders

The Maine Campus
University of Maine

oRONO, Maine (U-WIRE) – Libraries and bookstores across the United States will be celebrating Banned Books Week this week. This year, from Sept. 21 to 28, Banned Books Week 2002 has the theme “Let Freedom Read: Read a Banned Book.”

According to the American Library Association Web site, libraries across the country will be holding events, exhibits and read-outs to raise awareness of the censorship of books.

“The ability to read, speak, think and express ourselves freely are core American values,” Judith Krug, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom said on ALA’s Website. “We hope the read-outs will help remind Americans of the importance of our freedom at a time when freedoms are being eroded in the United States. Now — more than ever — we must let freedom read.”

The University of Maine Bookstore will be celebrating Banned Books Week as well. The week will celebrate books that have been challenged in the past, but through work continue to be published.

“A ‘challenge’ is defined as a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school about a book’s content or appropriateness,” according to the ALA Web site. “The majority of challenges — roughly 60 percent — are brought by parents followed by library patrons and administrators. Each challenge represents an effort to remove books from school curricula or library shelves.”

“It’s likely that many people don’t realize how often schools and libraries in this country restrict the access to certain books,” said Diane Genthner, UMaine Bookstore trade book buyer. “Sometimes it’s only the complaint of one customer or patron or parent that will cause a book to be banned in that particular facility.”

“The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom has recorded more than 6,500 book challenges since 1990, including 448 in 2001,” according to the ALA Web site. “It is estimated that less than one-quarter of all challenges are reported and recorded.”

Books have been receiving resistance for years. In 1939 John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” had a difficult introduction into American libraries. It was burned by the East St. Louis Public Library, barred from the Buffalo Public Library and banned in Kansas City, and in Kern County, Calif. Steinbeck’s books continue to be challenged today, according to a Bookstore press release.

There are new books that are receiving resistance as well. This includes trying to ban J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series from childrens’ libraries.

“People feel that Harry Potter makes children want to be witches,” said Holly Williams, Bookstore clerk and publications coordinator.

The UMaine Bookstore will be celebrating Banned Books Week with a display and cards describing why and when each book had encountered resistance and when banning it was attempted.

“[Banned Books Week] reminds people that basic freedoms should never, ever be taken for granted,” Genthner said.

The display will include some of the most frequently challenged books including, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and “A Day No Pigs Would Die” by Robert Newton Peck, Williams said.

“We want people to know this is still going on today,” Williams said.

Banned Books Week is sponsored nationally by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the ALA, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of American Publishers and the National Association of College Stores. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book of the Library of Congress.

For more information on the ALA and Banned Books Week, visit their website at www.ala.org