Every year, in libraries across the nation, books are taken off the shelves making them unavailable to many adults and teens alike. In order to combat this and to showcase the freedom to read that almost every citizen of the United States has, Banned Books Week was created.
“[Banned Books Week] is important because every year many, many books are challenged or banned in libraries across the country,” said Shelley Swoyer, librarian at Helias Catholic High School, “and so it’s a time to think about the issues of censorship.”
From Sept. 21-27, libraries all over the U.S. will celebrate Banned Books Week. The week’s festivities at Helias usually include activities, such as the poster contest held every year, where students are encouraged to create a poster of a cover of a banned or challenged book. Also, there are displays of artwork coinciding with banned books around the library.
Swoyer encourages everyone to participate, saying, “It makes [students] aware of their freedom to read and censorship. You don’t want it impinging on your rights.”
Books that have been banned or challenged over the past years include the whole Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, “Looking for Alaska” by John Green, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck, “1984” by George Orwell, and even “Where’s Waldo?” by Martin Hanford. These books are banned for a variety of reasons: sexual content, religious viewpoints, homosexuality and drug/alcohol use are just a few of these rationales.
“There are books we wouldn’t have in this library,” Swoyer pointed out, adding, “but, in fact, most of the books you’ll read at Helias show up on that list.”
After a sudden increase in the number of banned books, Banned Books Week started in 1982. According to the American Library Association, over 11,300 books have been banned since then. In 2013 alone, 307 book bans were reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom, and 464 banned books in 2012. The American Library Association estimates that up to 80 percent of all book bans go unreported.
“For the most part in this country, we have freedom to read,” said Swoyer. “People need to be aware, though, that that’s not necessarily always going to be the case.”