Finding Freedom in Reading with Banned Books Week

This Sunday marked the beginning of “Banned Books Week,” which aims to raise awareness of freedom of speech through celebrating challenged books.  

Banned Books Week was started by the American Library Association in 1982. According to ACLU Oregon, a book is “challenged” when a person or group objects to the materials and attempts to remove or restrict a book’s accessibility. The book is “banned” when the removal is successful. Since the launch of Banned Books Week, more than 11,000 books have been challenged.  

According to the American Library Association, over the past decade, the most banned and challenged books included literary classics like Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye,” along with a number of contemporary works: Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games,” John Green’s “Looking for Alaska,” and Angie Thomas’ “The Hate U Give,” to name a few.    

The mission of this year’s campaign is to spotlight current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools with the theme “Censorship is a Dead End. Find Your Freedom to Read.”   

Each day of the week has its own individual theme: reading a banned book, speaking out about censorship, creating something unrestricted, expressing the freedom to read in style, writing about your rights, learning from others, and thanking those who defend the freedom to read every day of the year.   

Buzzy Nielsen, the State Library of Oregon’s program manager, library support and development services, told the Oregonian that Banned Books Week is an opportunity for libraries to highlight the diversity of the materials they carry.   

“There’s something in the library to offend everybody,” he said.  

There were 18 challenged books in Oregon this year, including:  

The Beet Fields: Memories of a Sixteenth Summer,” by Gary Paulsen 

The Bible 

Black Widow: The Name of the Rose,” by Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuña 

Chocolate Me!,” by Taye Diggs  

The Dangerous Alphabet,” by Neil Gaiman and Gris Grimly  

Esto No Es Un Libro De Sexo,” by Chusita Fashion Fever  

Everything You Need: 8 Essential Steps to A Life of Confidence in the Promises of God,” by David Jeremiah  

George,” by Alex Gino 

Hedgehug: A Sharp Lesson in Love,” by Ben Sutton and Dan Pinto  

Japanese American Internment Camps,” edited by Bryan J. Grapes  

Letting Go,” by Maya Banks  

Malala: My Story of Standing Up for Girls’ Rights,” by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick  

The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James,” by Ashley Herring Blake  

“Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction,” by John Austin 

On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep,” by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam  

Ready For It,” by Chusita Fashion Fever  

Sex is a Funny Word: A Book about Bodies, Feelings, and You,” by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth 

The True Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig,” by Steve Jenkins, Derek Walter, and Caprice Crane   

More information on Banned Books Week can be found on the Banned Books website.  

By Jada Krening