Sunday, September 19, 2004

Celebrate Banned Books Week!!
Banned Books Week, Sept. 20 through 27, will mark the occasion when we will celebrate the freedom to read, one of our most precious democratic freedoms; one we should not take for granted.Since 1990, the American Library Association has recorded more than 7,000 book challenges (a written complaint requesting that a book be removed from library shelves or school curriculum), and this is estimated to be only one-quarter of challenges reported and recorded.It is thanks to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents and students that most challenges are unsuccessful.Among the books challenged were: "Huckleberry Finn", by Mark Twain; "The Harry Potter Series", by J. K. Rowling - the most banned series in recent times (What began with the religious right has spread to the politically correct); "The Catcher in the Rye", by J. D. Salinger; "Where's Waldo?", by Martin Hanford, and Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings".

People want to ban or burn books for many diverse reasons. For example, church leaders of a Lewiston, Maine, Christian group protested the Harry Potter books by asking for a permit for a book burning. They felt the books "encouraged witchcraft, occult practices and rebelliousness among children." The Fire Department refused the permits so the Jesus Group held a "book cutting."
You see, censors don't want you exposed to ideas different than their own. If every individual or group had their way, library shelves would be empty; TV might become a thing of the past; CDs would disappear from the sales shelves, and movies probably would never be made. You might be amazed at the books which people or groups have tried to ban. "Tom Sawyer" (too full of racially charged language); "Alice in Wonderland" (animals should not use human language). Then there are the "family friendly" Bibles that appeared around 1830 which had passages excised that were considered to be indelicate.
The Butler Eagle in Pennsylvania reported that on one Sunday evening, the Harvest Assembly of God Church sang songs as they burned books, videos and CDs they judged to be "offensive to their God."
Whether or not a book or CD or movie is inappropriate for their children is a matter of personal choice. If you don't like it, don't read it, don't listen to it or don't watch it - but don't dictate what others can or cannot do.
Judy Blume, whose childrens' books have been the victim of censorship for years, said it best when she wrote "But it is not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers."
Censorship grows out of fear, and because fear is contagious, people are easily swayed. Banning of books, CDs, movies, TV shows satisfies their need to feel in control. They want to believe that if you don't read, see or hear about it, you won't know about it. And if you won't know about it, it won't happen.

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