Banned Books Week 2000

Celebrating wizards, magic brooms and the freedom to read

Harry Potter, the young wizard and hero of the fastest-selling children’s books in history, awakens the imaginations of adults and has helped to bring children back to reading. If some people had their way, however, his books would disappear along with scores of others. As it is, they have stirred up a cauldron of trouble for him. Indeed, Harry’s books were the most frequently challenged books of 1999 and rank 48 on the list of the 100 most frequently challenged books of the past decade, according to the American Library Association (ALA).

"If we ban these books, a dark force stands to be unleashed. It’s not the occult. It’s ignorance," John Monk, an editorial writer for The State in Columbia, S.C., wrote this past year.

But ignorance does not—and cannot—extinguish our First Amendment right to choose to read all books—banned, challenged, or those otherwise considered "objectionable."

To celebrate this freedom, the American Library Association and the Lane Memorial Library are sponsoring Banned Books Week, September 23–30, with the theme "Fish in the River of Knowledge." Now in its nineteenth year, Banned Books Week is also sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the

Association of American Publishers and the National Association of College Stores. The Library of Congress Center for the Book endorses the observance.

In honor of Banned Books Week, the Lane Memorial Library will feature displays of banned books which include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Giver.

Banned Books Week reminds us that nobody should be complacent in thinking that books are safe from censorship attempts. In schools and libraries across the country, thousands of books—many of the classics—are still being challenged today.

Last year, the American Library Association logged 472 attempts by groups or individuals to have books removed from library shelves and from classrooms. These titles include J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series (the "Most Challenged" books of 1999), for its focus on wizardry and magic; Judy Blume’s Blubber, challenged for using offensive language and being unsuited to age group; David Guterson’s, Snow Falling on Cedars, for having sexual content and using offensive language; and Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War (the "Most Challenged" book of 1998), for using offensive language and being unsuited to age group.

Research shows that reported challenges represent only 20 to 25 percent of all challenges made. Of even greater concern is the fact that every challenge is an attempt to make ideas inaccessible to their intended audience.

The freedom to read is about choice and respecting the right of others to choose for themselves and their families what they wish to read. It is one of the most precious freedoms we have in a democratic society.

Book banning and challenging has a domino effect. If we stand quietly by and let the first book come off the shelf, we run the risk they all will come tumbling down.