Banned Books Week Celebration Grows at Literary Life

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Literary Life Bookstore & More in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has been celebrating Banned Books Week for the past two years with small displays of challenged books. Along with the controversial books, the store provided cards that informed readers where and why these books were challenged. Last year, staff introduced a white board for readers to share the titles of their favorite banned books. “That was terrific,” said Literary Life staff member Jennifer Sorensen. “At the end of the day, the board was chock-full.” This year, in addition to having the displays, the store is gearing up for its first Banned Books Week event, which will include a video of Fahrenheit 451 on a continuous loop as well as an in-store poetry reading.

“It's going to be some poetry that may be challenging for people to hear,” said Sorensen. “But it's important for them to hear, and important for them to recognize the freedom to read and write poetry.”

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) has numerous resources available to help booksellers get involved in Banned Books Week, the national celebration of the freedom to read, this year from September 25 - October 2.

The Banned Books Week Handbook is an extensive tool for booksellers who want to get their readers involved in the week of celebration. It offers specific event and display ideas for booksellers to inform and engage customers.

The official Banned Books Week website, developed by ABFEE and the American Library Association (ALA), gives a rundown of banned books, explains some of the movement's history, allows stores and libraries to post their events, and even maps book censorship across the country.

“Banned Books Week plays a key role in protecting the freedom to read by highlighting the hundreds of challenges to books that occur in the U.S. every year,” said ABFFE President Chris Finan. “It is an opportunity to explain to customers why we must continue to fight censorship.”

Hundreds of bookstores and libraries across the nation have been celebrating the freedom to read since 1982, when Banned Books Week began in response to a sudden rise in book censorship. Books are continually challenged for various reasons, including excessive violence, sexuality, and profanity, as well as for offensive portrayals of racial or religious groups or for positive portrayals of gays and lesbians. According to the American Library Association, there were 460 book challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom just last year.

Booksellers with questions about Banned Books Week should contact ABFFE's Amy Long at (212) 587-4025, ext. 12 or amyl@abffe.com.

Additional resources are available through the ALA website.