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September 30, 2008

Book Club Girl Loves Banned Books

Posted by carol
It's Banned Books Week, sponsored by the American Library Association to raise awareness about challenged titles --- books some people would like to see removed from library shelves. Contributor Jennifer Hart, aka Book Club Girl, explains why she loves Banned Books --- and why you might want to consider selecting one of the challenged titles for a reading group pick.

It is so hard to believe that in this day and age, people are still trying to, and sometimes succeeding in, banning books in their communities. When I first hear the phrase "banned books" I think of a time long-ago, like Scopes-Monkey trial time, and I'm always shocked when I hear people are trying to ban books today, books as innocuous, and as wonderful, as Harry Potter. When I think that a child might not be exposed to a magical and delightfully imaginative series like Harry Potter, because some misguided person thinks that somehow books can do, well, I don't know what it is they think books can do that is so pernicious and negative that would require them being removed from places of public consumption like the local library.

The American Library Association's Banned Books Week, which began this past Saturday and runs through October 4th, seeks to promote the awareness of book banning and to make sure Americans don't take our freedom to read for granted.

Being a part of a book group is a perfect way to explore the issue. Choose a banned book for your group's next pick and along with reading and discussing it, do some research on what communities sought to ban the book and why. Only by trying to understand the motivation of people who fear the written word, can we hope to ever communicate with them and help convince them that words can only educate and elevate us.

You might be surprised at how many reading group favorites appear on the frequently challenged books list, including The Color Purple, The Handmaid's Tale, Snow Falling on Cedars, The Things They Carried, The Lovely Bones, and Like Water for Chocolate, just to name a few. For lists of challenged books, as well as resources on why they've been challenged, go here.

How else can you get involved? The ALA website has more tips on how you can support the week, find a Banned Books event, or join the the Banned Books Groups on Facebook and My Space.

Meanwhile, read banned books and display them with pride.

---Jennifer Hart