Chicago celebrates Banned Books Week

It’s National Banned Books Week!

Some classic children’s books have been banned in the past, including:

“The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein

“Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak

“James and the Giant Peach” by Roald Dahl

“Harriet the Spy” by Louise Fitzhugh

“Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll

“The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss

“The Diary of Anne Frank” by Anne Frank

It’s hard to imagine a world without those wonderful books, isn’t it?

A children’s book tops the list of the most challenged books in 2013. The Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey was the target of people who objected to it on the grounds of offensive language, unsuited for age group and violence.

This year’s Banned Books Week focuses on banned and challenged comic books and graphic novels. One of the most challenged books is “Bone” by Jeff Smith, which landed on the list of 10 most challenged books in 2013. Millions have read the Bone series and loved it, and many consider it a modern comics classic, but it has faced several challenges and at least one ban over the years.

Upon first learning of the challenge to his work, Smith said, “I learned this weekend that “Bone” has been challenged on the basis of ‘political viewpoint, racism and violence.’ I have no idea what book these people read. After fielding these and other charges for a while now, I’m starting to think such outrageous accusations (really, racism?) say more about the people who make them than about the books themselves.”

Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read and the fact that, despite challenges, most books remain widely available thanks to people who fight for them.

The American Library Association explains that it “brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”

Libraries and bookstores all around Chicago are hosting events to celebrate books. You can find events in Chicago on the Chicago Public Library website here.

Families can also celebrate at home by just reading a few of the books on the banned book list and talking about them.

It’s also a great chance to talk with older kids about censorship and who decides what is appropriate and when. A good example of this is that many have challenged The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Not all parents wanted their kids reading them due to the violent nature of the story, which Collins said she understood. “That’s not unreasonable. They are violent. It’s a war trilogy,” she said.

My daughter balked at reading the trilogy in fourth grade when the books were popular with her friends. A few years later, she dove into them and really enjoyed them. She knew when she was ready. While the books are not for everyone, their appropriateness for children is a topic for parents, teachers and children themselves. It’s not a choice that should be made for them.

We all deserve the right to read.

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