Read-Out of Banned Books Begins

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Readers across the U.S. and around the world are demonstrating their support for free speech by participating in a virtual read-out of banned and challenged books that will culminate during the 30th annual Banned Books Week (September 30 - October 6).  Individuals, bookstores, and libraries are uploading three-minute videos — either a reading from a challenged book or a description of a local censorship fight — to a special channel on YouTube. More than 800 videos were posted during Banned Books Week last year. 

To encourage people to post to YouTube, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Library Association, and the other sponsors of Banned Books Week have released a two-minute video produced by Bookmans, an independent bookstore in Arizona. The video encourages viewers to “turn on the light” to celebrate free expression.  Customers and staff, who appear with shining light bulbs above their heads, each recite a single line from challenged books that testifies to the importance of books, reading and freedom of speech.  The groups hope that supporters of Banned Books Week will help promote this creative and inspiring video through social media.

The virtual read-out is the centerpiece of Banned Books Week, which focuses attention on the censorship of books in schools and libraries.  ALA reported 326 challenges in 2011.  At the top of the most challenged list was a series of books written by Lauren Myracle in the form of text messages, including ttyl, ttfn, l8r, and g8r.

Other frequently challenged titles last year include the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  ALA publishes a Top Ten Banned Books list annually.

The Banned Books Week website provides information about the virtual read-out.  It also includes an interactive map that shows the location of book challenges in recent years, and a listing of Banned Books Week events sponsored by libraries, bookstores and other groups.

ABFFE provides tools for booksellers, including both written instructions and a how-to video. It will also handle the editing and posting of the videos. Details are available on the Banned Books Week page on the ABFFE website. Booksellers who are interested in participating are encouraged to contact Finan [email protected].

In addition to ALA, ABFFE, other sponsors of Banned Books Week are the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the National Association of College Stores, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, NCAC, the National Council of Teachers of English, and PEN American Center.  Banned Books Week is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and Project Censored.