Read a banned book on YouTube

Guess what time of year it is….

Fall?  No.  I mean it is, but it’s even better than that.

It’s almost time for American Library Association’s Banned Books week, y’all!

Never celebrated before?  Really?  You think so?

If you’ve ever read The Catcher in the Rye, Of Mice & Men, The Great Gatsby, or To Kill a Mockingbird, (i.e. if you’ve gone through an American public school) you, my friend, have courageously braved the rip current of censorship – all of these books were at one time banned or challenged.

Think censorship is a thing of the past?  The Internet’s rising tide unbounded intellectual freedom lifts all boats?  Think again.  In the past decade alone (2000-2009) 100 books at least have been banned or challenged.  (This, according to the fabulous ALA website devoted to the celebration.)  This includes, and yes, I mean it – this includes even (gasp) Harry Potter himself.

ALA created the week in order to, as stated in their mission statement, “[promote] the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and [stress] the importance of ensuring the availability of those viewpoints to all who wish to read them.”  I’ll raise a pint to that, for sure.

The week highlights not only books that were at one time banned from shelves, but also those that were challenged.  ALA defines challenging a book as “an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group,” whereas banning “is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.”

Now don’t get too jazzed or excited just yet.  The official week doesn’t start until September 30th.  It runs till October 6th, and I bet if you stop by your local library branches during that time, they’ll have super-cool events going on!

However, the ALA invites you to participate yourself, too.  This year they’re hosting a Virtual Read-Out on YouTube, where individuals can record a short video of them reading a passage from one of the banned books listed on the site.  If you are camera-shy, you’re also invited to create a video montage relating to the material instead. Check out Whoopi Goldberg’s proclaiming, “I read banned books.”

So get psyched!  The countdown starts at t-minus eght days left to join the celebration.

Read out!