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Topic: Banned Books Week: Celebrate the Freedom to Read — Overview

What is Banned Books Week?

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read which highlights the value of free and open access to information.

Librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types share their support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.Banned Book Week 2017

Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.

  • A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.
  • A banning is the removal of those materials.

Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.

More at ALA Banned Books Week 2018

Notable First Amendment court cases

Todd v. Rochester Community Schools, 200 N.W.2d 90 (Mich. Ct. App. 1972)

In deciding that Slaughterhouse-Five could not be banned from the libraries and classrooms of the Michigan schools, the Court of Appeals of Michigan declared: "Vonnegut's literary dwellings on war, religion, death, Christ, God, government, politics, and any other subject should be as welcome in the public schools of this state as those of Machiavelli, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Melville, Lenin, Joseph McCarthy, or Walt Disney. The students of Michigan are free to make of Slaughterhouse-Five what they will."

Right to Read Defense Committee v. School Committee of the City of Chelsea, 454 F. Supp. 703 (D. Mass. 1978)

The Chelsea, Mass. School Committee decided to bar from the high school library a poetry anthology, Male and Female under 18, because of the inclusion of an "offensive" and "damaging" poem, "The City to a Young Girl," written by a fifteen-year-old girl. Challenged in U.S. District Court, Joseph L. Tauro ruled: "The library is 'a mighty resource in the marketplace of ideas.' There a student can literally explore the unknown, and discover areas of interest and thought not covered by the prescribed curriculum. The student who discovers the magic of the library is on the way to a life-long experience of self-education and enrichment. That student learns that a library is a place to test or expand upon ideas presented to him, in or out of the classroom. The most effective antidote to the poison of mindless orthodoxy is ready access to a broad sweep of ideas and philosophies. There is no danger from such exposure. The danger is mind control. The committee's ban of the anthology Male and Female is enjoined."

The Power of Ink versus Gunpowder

"Printer's ink has been running a race against gunpowder these many, many years. Ink is handicapped, in a way, because you can blow up a man with gunpowder in half a second, while it may take twenty years to blow him up with a book. But the gunpowder destroys itself along with its victim, while a book can keep on exploding for centuries."