Fight Censorship! Take the Free to Read Pledge
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Banned books can open readers up to a whole new world of knowledge. Help us fight this misguided censorship!
It is a sad truth that books are still banned from libraries in the U.S. but it happens every year1.
Classic works and important new books are taken from the shelves of American libraries to keep the public uninformed and to feed into false hysteria about the effects the books in question may have on society. Banning books is an attempt to shield people from subjects that some find offensive, inappropriate, or radical — and it's an assault on our intelligence as a common people.
The American Library Association's annual Banned Books Week takes place the last week of September each year, and encourages freedom in reading and the celebration of free speech2.
This event spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. It brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular3.
"To censor a book is to damage the framework in which we live," Jason Reynolds, inaugural Honorary Chair for Banned Books Week 2021, told the National Coalition Against Censorship4. "Any time we eliminate or wall off certain narratives, we are not getting a whole picture of the world in which we live. And navigating the world in a way that is closed-off, closed-minded, is poisonous. It means that we limit our vocabulary, which complicates how we communicate with one another. We have to celebrate stories and ensure that all books have a space on the shelves and the opportunity to live in the psyches of our children, as they grow into the human beings who will inherit this wonderful place."
Banning books is in no way new. Repressive regimes throughout history have erased knowledge and viewpoints they deemed dangerous5. An emperor of China's Qin dynasty burned the works of Confucian scholars before burying them alive. The Spanish inquisition outlined forbidden and heretical literature in the Librorum Prohibitorum. Orwell's "1984" was inspired by the mass Nazi and Soviet totalitarian book-burnings, and in 1981 ironically challenged for being 'pro-communist.'
Questioning whether certain books are appropriate for children is reasonable, as some books may just be too mature or difficult for some young readers. But as the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights states, a person's use of the library may not be restricted or limited because of age6.
We need to promote further enlightenment and learning. Libraries should foster a true desire for awareness and learning by encouraging individuals to read banned books.
Sign the Free to Read pledge in favor of more planning, less banning!
- American Library Association (2021), "Top 10 Most Challenged Books Lists."
- Molly Bond, American Booksellers Association (6 April 2021), "Banned Books Week Announces 2021 Theme: Books Unite Us."
- American Library Association (2021), "Banned Books Week (September 26-October 2, 2021)."
- National Coalition Against Censorship (13 April 2021), "Acclaimed Challenged Author Jason Reynolds Will Headline 2021 Banned Books Week."
- Boyd Allsbrook (30 September 2020), "Dangerous material; celebrating banned books."
- American Library Association (29 January 2019), "Library Bill of Rights."
As a supporter of free speech and the power of reading, I pledge to support intellectual freedom in my local libraries and schools.
I pledge to challenge censorship on information and enlightenment.
I pledge to challenge obstacles to free expression and free access to ideas.
I pledge to support the unabridged freedom to read for humans of all origin, age, background, or views.
All libraries are forums for information and ideas, and I will remain steadfast in defending the right for those ideas to be read.