Banning Books Silences Stories

Libraries Support Your Right to Read

Throughout the country, most children are starting a new academic year. Teachers are sending out their lists of required readings, and parents are beginning to gather books. In some cases, classics like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Catcher in the Rye,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” may not be included in curriculum or available in the school library due to challenges made by parents or administrators.

The Truth About Banning Books 

Since 1990, the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has recorded more than 10,000 book challenges, including 323 in 2016. A challenge is a formal, written complaint requesting a book be removed from library shelves or school curriculum. About half of all challenges are to material in schools or school libraries, and one in four are to material in public libraries. OIF estimates that less than one-quarter of challenges are actually reported and recorded.

So why is this a problem? Challenges are not simply an expression of a point of view; instead, they are an attempt to remove materials from public use, thereby restricting the access of others. Even if the motivation to ban or challenge a book is well intentioned, the outcome is detrimental. Censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves. For young children, decisions about what books to read should be made by the people who know them best—their parents!

Libraries Stand Up for Right to Read

It is thanks to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, and students that most challenges are unsuccessful and reading materials like “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” “I Am Jazz,” the Harry Potter series, and the Hunger Games series, remain available for everyone.

In support of the right to choose books freely for ourselves, the libraries in Jefferson and Waukesha counties are celebrating Banned Books Week from September 23-29, an annual recognition of our right to access books without censorship. Since its inception in 1982, Banned Books Week has reminded us that while not every book is intended for every reader, each of us has the right to decide for ourselves what to read, listen to, or view.

Celebrate Banned Books Week With Us

Want to celebrate with us? Check out a banned book from your local library and encourage a friend to do the same. Declare your right to read with the #bannedbooksweek hashtag. Most importantly, stay informed. If you hear of challenges at your library or school, lend your support and voice to the librarians and teachers defending intellectual freedom.

This school year, kids will learn how to spell their names and solve equations, gaining skills and knowledge to help them succeed in life. However, true success- for them and for us- is also dependent on learning empathy and acceptance. Books teach us these life skills, since they invite us to step into someone else’s world and see through someone else’s eyes. Libraries keep books on the shelves because we believe that books, like libraries, are for everyone, everywhere. Now, more than ever, we invite you to celebrate the freedom to read at your library.

Written by Jill Fuller. A version of this article appeared in the Waukesha Freeman, the Oconomowoc Enterprise, the Daily Jefferson County Union, and the Watertown Times. We will be sharing those pieces here on our website a few weeks after each piece has been printed.