Starting Sunday, the twenty-fourth of September, the Dayton Memorial Library—and other libraries across the nation—will host Banned Book Week. This week is meant to raise students’ awareness and bring attention to the threat of censorship on literature and free reading.
When one enters the library, the first bookcase on the left is filled with titles that have faced challenges, and banning, over the years. Some of the titles may surprise you, as they did me. “Julie of the Wolves,” “Bridge to Terabithia,” and other familiar friends from childish days peer out from the shelves, each bearing a little grey card with the explanation behind their public disfavor.
Most books, thankfully, are only challenged, since to ban a book means that it is removed entirely or put on restricted distribution. Only ten percent of those challenges actually result in a book being removed. The greatest force threatening free readership are parents looking to protect their children, fearing that exposure to such material will produce experimentation or foster similar behaviors as those in the book. While this action itself is a protected right under free speech, the forcing of these opinions on others is the driving force behind censorship.
“Parents have the right to monitor their own child, but not others,” said Courtney Drysdale, a librarian at Dayton Memorial Library. The most common objections parents have to these books are claims of profanity, explicit sexual content, and opposing religious viewpoints or perceived satanic/pagan rituals.
Public libraries, funded by tax dollars and thus particularly susceptible to the will of the people, are the most frequently challenged of all literary repositories, followed closely by schools. America is one of the few nations of the world supportive of free speech, and it is only through the valiant efforts of librarians, teachers, and students on the front lines of the literary defense that these stories—some of them steadfast favorites—stay with us.