By Traci Cothran
Reading is central to everything we do here at Gale—and what you do at your library every day—so it’s a good bet the majority of us use Banned Books Week to rally around the works that cause a little controversy. This year’s Banned Books Week focuses on celebrating Diversity, and runs September 25 – October 1.
I’m an avid reader of middle grade and young adult fiction, so it drives me a little batty when parents ban amazing novels that speak to youth. Some authors are even dis-invited from appearing at schools to talk about their books and the issues affecting kids today. For instance, the graphic novel Drama, by Raina Telgemeier, has caused grumblings for two gay characters kissing, but I’ve yet to meet a middle school girl who doesn’t love this series. Author Meg Medina faced scrutiny with her novel about high school bullying, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, because the title has a swear word in it—and you know such language is never spoken in school hallways! Kate Messner was dis-invited from a school speaking engagement while on tour for her book, The Seventh Wish, because the main character’s sister struggles with a heroin addiction, affecting the whole family. But there’s no reason to talk about the real-life heroin epidemic affecting kids in high schools and middle schools across the U.S., is there?
Of course, it’s easy to champion diversity and free speech if you’re not the one hearing the patrons’ concerns about the books. It can be difficult to weigh different viewpoints, and thanks goes out to every librarian who grapples with this issue. We respect the right of every person to make individual choices about what they read, and recognize the vital role libraries and librarians play day in and day out to provide diverse reading material for everyone.
During this year’s Banned Books Week, point patrons to both sides of the issue by searching “Book Banning” on Opposing Viewpoints In Context. It contains a wealth of information—pros and cons—including a statistical graph showing the Top Reasons for Book Challenges (“sexually explicit” tops the list, followed by “offensive language” and “unsuited to age group”). Patrons can hear each side of the issue—from school to governmental bans—to develop a more informed decision.
We’d love to hear what your library is doing to “Celebrate the Freedom to Read”—comment below, include a picture if you have one, and have a great week celebrating banned books!
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About the Author
Traci Cothran is a manager in Gale’s Database Program and a history buff, so she can often be found watching videos from the early 1900s in Gale’s World History In Context.