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Fall for Books — Especially Banned Ones!

September 23, 2019


Today is the first day of autumn — and the perfect day to fall into the leaves of a book as it is also Banned Books Week!

Censorship leaves us in the dark. Keep the lights on!

Banned Books Week calls attention recent as well as older books that have been banned. The ALA (American Library Association) offers many resources to publicize and explain the event as well as the importance of standing up to challenges to remove books from libraries — and from the hands of readers. Below is an example of one such resource from the ALA website:

The following is from the American Libraries Magazine article “50 Years of Intellectual Freedom,” written by OIF staff celebrating the office’s anniversary.

Banned Books Week was launched in the 1980s, a time of increased challenges, organized protests, and the Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982) Supreme Court case, which ruled that school officials can’t ban books in libraries simply because of their content.

Banned books were showcased at the 1982 American Booksellers Association (ABA) BookExpo America trade show in Anaheim, California. At the entrance to the convention center towered large, padlocked metal cages, with some 500 challenged books stacked inside and a large overhead sign cautioning that some people considered these books dangerous.

Drawing on the success of the exhibit, ABA invited OIF Director Judith Krug to join a new initiative called Banned Books Week, along with the National Association of College Stores. The three organizations scrambled to put something together by the September show date and ended up distributing a news release and a publicity kit, hoping that with their combined membership of 50,000 people, they could continue to spark a conversation about banned books.

The initiative took off. Institutions and stores hosted read-outs, and window displays morphed into literary graveyards or mysterious collections of brown-bagged books. Major news outlets such as PBS and the New York Times covered the event, and mayors and governors issued proclamations affirming the week.

ALA is currently part of a national coalition to promote Banned Books Week, along with 14 other contributors and sponsors. Krug led the Banned Books Week efforts as OIF director until her unexpected death in 2009. Her legacy lives on in the Freedom to Read Foundation’s Judith F. Krug Memorial Fund, a grant awarded to nonprofits to host Banned Books Week events.

Today, Banned Books Week coverage by mainstream media reaches an estimated 2.8 billion readers, and more than 90,000 publishing industry and library subscribers. The Banned Books page remains one of the top two most popular pages on the ALA website.

Books are still being banned and challenged today. A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials.

While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.

In my classes, I place a HUGE emphasis on reading real books — not reading from readers or handouts or online sources, but real books that I hope students will buy and own and annotate and have on their bookshelves to enjoy and share. Of course, budget wise, many students choose to buy online versions of books. But still, we are reading books — and this semester, students are reading four of them.

We’re all reading The Everyday Writer by Andrea Lunsford 6thedition and then students are choosing to read one of the following with a group of students reading the same book:

  • Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg
  • Bird by Birdby Anne Lamott
  • The Craft of Revision by Donald M. Murray (not in VC bookstore)
  • On Writing by Stephen King

Next students chose an EARTH ACTION BOOKS from the following which they have been reading for two weeks and will be responding to this week. They will be reading this book at their own pace but it is expected that they will be done with it before Thanksgiving as they will be writing a review of it in mid-November and presenting about it on the Monday after Thanksgiving:

  • Gyre: The Plastic Ocean edited by Julie Decker (2014)
  • The Nature Fix by Florence Williams
  • Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Lifeby Barbara Kingsolver (2007)
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural Historyby Elizabeth Kolbert (2015)

This week they will choose their fourth and final book from the following BOOK CLUB BOOKS — and again they will be in a group with other students to read the book and present about it to the class on Monday Oct. 28. This gives them a month to read the book and prepare to present it:

  • Violence Girlby Alice Bag (2011)
  • Boy About Town by Tony Fletcher (2014)
  • Bad Indians by Deborah Miranda (2012)
  • Life By The Cup by Zhena Muzyka (2014)
  • Always Running by Luis Rodriguez (1993)
  • Wildby Cheryl Strayed (2012)
  • Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard (2005)
  • LAB GIRL by Hope Jahren 

So which book or books do YOU want to read?

Today I’ll ask students to research the books in the lab and then to tell me:

  1. which book is first choice to read and why,
  2. which book is second choice to read and why
  3. which book is a NO NO NEVER and why,
  4. who to work with and why
  5. who NOT to work with
  6. whether who to work with is more important than what read

It’s always interesting to me to learn which books interest students. In general, these are perennial favorites but the make-up of every class is different — and so are their choices and their presentations as they reflect who the students are and what matters to them.

And what am I reading? I always have a pile of books going — and I read articles, magazines, and the newspaper voraciously as well. Two books on this list are new to me so I am focusing on reading those first:

  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Lifeby Barbara Kingsolver (2007)
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural Historyby Elizabeth Kolbert (2015)

So what are you falling for this fall?


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