As another school year begins and students file into classrooms, many instructors look forward to using classic and modern literature to educate, entertain, and foster discussion. After all, the English classroom is where most people encounter and discover a love for the written word; however, an unexpected enemy thwarts teachers and librarians in educational facilities across the nation. Even in today’s more enlightened and tolerant society, banning and censoring books is a serious issue.
Banned Books Week (BBW) was created in 1982 to raise awareness of this important area of literary contention. Sponsored by such organizations as the American Library Association (ALA), Association of American Publishers, and the National Council of Teachers of English, the event celebrates the written word and the freedom to enjoy it, while highlighting the very real problems posed by challenging the availability of certain books in our schools. Many colleges and universities contribute to BBW by hosting read-outs of popular and beloved books that have fallen prey to censorship. This year, BBW takes place from September 27 to October 3, and focuses on young adult books.
So, why do parents and schools attempt to challenge and suppress certain books? According to the ALA, the answer usually is “to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information…‘inappropriate’ sexual content or ‘offensive’ language.” Last year’s most attacked books include Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. These novels and others like them are faced with a barrage of requests for removal from school curriculums because of language or content. In some cases, these books’ opponents succeed in preventing important thematic discussions because of personal bias.
If you or your Sigma Tau Delta chapter wishes to contribute to the BBW celebration, a good place to start is the official website. You also can participate in this year’s Virtual Read-Out by creating and submitting a video, which could be featured on the official Banned Books Week YouTube channel. When you plan your event, consider sharing your ideas with your Sigma Tau Delta regional Facebook page for feedback and support. As members of Sigma Tau Delta, let’s work together to speak out against the censorship of literature and celebrate the written word.