Why Banned Books Week is Still Important

3 min read Banned Books Week has been held annually since 1982, according to the official website for the event. Usually failing on the last week of September, this year it was conducted from Sept. 23-29.

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By Caitlyn Stultz | cstultz4@radford.edu

Banned Books Week has been held annually since 1982, according to the official website for the event. Usually failing on the last week of September, this year it was conducted from Sept. 23-29.

Every year, the coalition encourages teachers, librarians, publishers, journalists, and readers of all ages and backgrounds to read challenged books. They provide a list of the previous year’s most challenged books. This list is provided by the American Library Associations (ALA).

The ALA has been compiling this list since 2001 and provide the reasoning behind each book.

The top 10 from 2017 were:

  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • Drama is written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • George by Alex Gino, Sex is a Funny Word written by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • And Tango Makes Three written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole
  • I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

Along with providing the non-exhaustive list, the ALA also has promotional tools, such as posters or buttons. These tools can be downloaded for free or purchased online from the ALA’s website.

So why is Banned Book Week still important?

The Banned Books Week website says that they believe in “the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” In other words, people should be able to express their opinions and feelings, even when others may disagree.

Additionally, many of the books on 2017’s list, among past year’s lists, have great educational value.

To Kill a Mockingbird, for instance, has been used in high schools across the United States for years. The book is often used for its discussion on racial inequality, while still being humorous and warm.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has also been used on Radford University’s campus in CORE classes. Carly Sumpter, a junior at Radford University, said that she read the book last year for her CORE 201 class.

Sumpter said, “I liked the book because although it was very sexually explicit, it was real in the fact that it showed what those in Indian reservations actually go through. The book didn’t beat around the bush about real-life challenges, and many students were able to sympathize with the main character, and they channeled their Ethos Logos, and Pathos techniques and practices.”

Four of the books on 2017’s list are cited to be challenged because of their inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters. I Am Jazz, an autobiographical book that tells the story of a young transgender girl, which has been on ALA’s Top 10 Challenged Books for three straight years now.

The subject of the LGBTQ+ community remains controversial throughout the world, but the controversy should not stop authors from being able to include characters from a diverse community.

These reasons from above, as well as others, make Banned Books Week still important.

Even though Banned Books Week is over, it’s still important to go out there and read challenged books. Many people forget to exercise their mind and learn through reading literature in a world full of social media.

Everyone should take time from their busy and chaotic lives to pick up a book.

Photo Credit: (Masaaki Komori on Unsplash)