At the end of September, libraries all over the United States will be celebrating the right to read. Banned Books Week has been featured for about 30 years, but the practice of banning books dates back much farther than anyone really remembers. Although Americans generally have the right to read whatever they choose, it's important to realize that many people around the world do not have that privilege. The Bible is censored in many countries, with people going to jail if found in possession of that text. This year, in remembrance of Banned Books Weeks, choose one of these popular works to read with your family to open a dialogue about unpopular and unorthodox ideas that exist in the world.
- "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou: This autobiography was banned because it deals with difficult subjects, such as premarital sex, lesbianism and racial divides. However, it won national awards and is highly acclaimed. It's through understanding who Maya Angelou was that we understand her other works.
- "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck: This novel has been challenged by many high schools, even though it is one of Steinbeck's most popular and widely known works. It was written by a man who received the Nobel Prize in Literature, but people still object to its contents.
- "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee: One of the most highly taught novels in schools, the themes of rape and racial inequality have made it challenged in many school districts. If you've never experienced this novel of justice and compassion, you should remedy that immediately. Watch the movie with Gregory Peck and read the book. Appreciate the risk that Lee took in writing this book during the civil rights movement.
- "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" by J.K. Rowling: Many Christians objected to the Harry Potter series because it dealt with witchcraft and magic. Even though many children gained a love of reading through these books, the book has been challenged as being inappropriate for some students.
- "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie: One of the most recent challenges a book received was written by a Native American. Alexie's book won a national award, and it deals with tough subjects like race and class. Some parents objected to their ninth grade students reading this novel, but the ban was reversed because it is such a good piece of literature.
- "Animal Farm" or "Nineteen Eighty-Four" by George Orwell: Each of these books have been highly acclaimed as literary works, but many governments are afraid of the complex issues described in each work.
- "Christine" by Stephen King: This was King's fourteenth novel, and it is a horror story of a vintage automobile. It is one of the most challenged books of the 1990s. Although it's not everyone's cup of tea, does that mean no one should have access?
- "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll: A book of literary nonsense that is a beloved children's classic was thought to be inappropriate for young Chinese students to read. The anthropomorphized animals were a concern to the Chinese government.
The Right to Read
Parents certainly have the right to decide what their own children read. Banned Books Week isn't about taking away parental rights, but about making sure great literature (and even bad material) is available to everyone who wants to read it. Remember to appreciate your rights this year as Banned Books Week is celebrated at the end of September. Read a book that opens the door to difficult subjects to discuss how the events of your life influence who you are and what you do.