Celebrate your freedom to read

In 1982, the last week of September became a week dedicated to celebrating the freedom to read. Since then, Banned Books Week (BBW) has spread to libraries and bookstores across the country. The work has become a nation wide effort to fight for our freedom, not only to say what we want, but to read what we want. BBW is about drawing attention to the issue of censorship by promoting commonly challenged, or banned books, no matter how unpopular or unorthodox.

BBW was founded in response to a surge of book challenges in 1982, and since then, more than 11,000 books have been challenged.

According to the American Library Association, 348 challenges were reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2010. This number has surprisingly decreased compared to the 460 in 2009 and 513 in 2008. Despite this decrease, book bannings are still a prevalent issue that plagues our freedom to literature.

The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has compiled a list of book banning attempts from around the country. Since the majority of challenges occur in schools, most banned books are the classics from middle and high school curriculum.

Among some of the most surprising banned books are “A Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, “The Perks of Being a Wallflowers” by Stephen Chbosky, “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut, “Bridge To Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson, “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston, and the most recent, “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. In protest of censorship, join in this year’s BBW through one of its many events.

Banned Books Week 2011 runs Sept. 24 through Oct. 1, and will feature many events including a new type of read-out. Since Banned Books Week began, libraries and bookstores have hosted local readings of commonly challenged or banned books, also known as read-outs, but this year’s BBW will feature virtual read-outs for the first time.

Readers from all over the world can now participate in one huge read-out. By visiting the Banned Books Week YouTube channel, readers can post videos of themselves reading excerpts from their favorite banned books.

Locally, the San Antonio Public Library will be celebrating Banned Books Week by holding events at two local libraries. Mission Library will host an event, Tuesday, Sept. 27, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. called “Banned Movie Night,” which will present a movie based on a banned book.

Saturday, Oct. 1 at 11:00 a.m., the Parman Library will have “A Chat with William Faulkner.” This event will feature a live performance of Dr. John D. Anderson, associate professor at Boston’s Emerson College, who will embody Faulkner himself.

This performance will include a read-out from Faulkner’s banned novels: “As I Lay Dying,” “Absalom, Absalom” and “The Sound and the Fury.”

This Banned Books Week, celebrate one of your favorite books by attending a local event or by recording a virtual read-out of your own. And remember, it’s your right to read.