September 30th kicks off Banned Books Week, a celebration of the freedom to read all across the country. This year is the event's thirtieth anniversary, as the battle against censorship marches on. In this digital society, where we have access to most any kind of information at our fingertips, there are still those who would limit our rights when it comes to what we read. While book censorship is almost always born from the best of intentions -- most often to protect the innocents -- it's a threat to our first amendment rights and something we should all rally to fight off.
Banned Books Week is sponsored by a coalition of organizations including the American Library Association (ALA), the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), the National Coalition Against Censorship, and the National Council of Teachers of English, among others. Bill Moyers is an honorary co-chair of the event, and you can see a newly released video with his thoughts on the topic, The Bane of Banned Books. Some of my favorite activities are the "Virtual Read-Outs", where booksellers, libraries, and schools videotape people reading aloud from banned books, and then post the videos on YouTube. Here are a few of those and other library- and book-related videos to inspire you.
Freedom to Read!
Watch the first video below, or watch the whole playlist on YouTube.
- Bookmans Does Banned Books Virtual Readout (02:05)
This was by far the coolest "virtual read-out" video I saw, made just a few weeks ago to kick off the 2012 festivities. It's by Bookmans, an indie bookseller from Arizona. (Interesting, given the flurry of activity in Tucson this year around the book-banning issue.)
- One Hundred Banned Books (01:04)
Don't blink -- this video shows the one hundred most frequently challenged books of the last century (1900 - 2000) in just one minute. To see what was challenged after the year 2000, check out the ALA's list of the most challenged books of the last decade, sorted by year.
- Whoopi Goldberg Reads Shel Silverstein - Virtual Read-Out (00:52)
Actress and comedian Whoopi Goldebrg gives a ticklish reading of a rather mild rebellious text -- a short Shel Silverstein poem about resisting doing the dishes. Chore-resistant children rejoice!
- The Joy of Books (01:52)
While this brilliantly executed stop-animation video has nothing to do with censorship, I just love it. Who knows what all the "inappropriate" books are doing at night when we're not watching?
- Banned Books Week Read! Out Road Trip (01:08)
The public library in Skokie, Illinois created a "Banned Bookmobile" in 2011, taking it out to the three local schools and delivering free boxes of banned books to each, assisted by a grant from the Freedom to Read Foundation.
- Penguin Presents: Authors Stand Up for Free Speech (05:33)
Writers who have had their books banned or censored speak up on how it feels to have your work challenged, and why freedom of expression is so valuable. Includes thoughts from Jacqueline Woodson, Carolyn Mackler, Ellen Hopkins, Lauryn Myracle, Chris Crutcher, and many more.
- Reporting Challenges: A Quick How-To Video (02:30)
The American Library Association (ALA) has an Office for Intellectual Freedom that helps schools and libraries deal with complaints about books. This handy video describes how you can get support when you're facing a challenge.
- 50 State Salute to Banned Books Week - Arkansas (02:21)
ALA also has a project called the 50 State Salute to encourage every state to submit a video expressing support of the freedom to read. Check out all videos submitted so far on this YouTube channel. This video out of Arkansas was particularly creative.
- Where Would You Be Without Your Library? (02:14)
I couldn't resist including one heart-warmer, even though it's not about banned books. This video was made by a group of book-lovers who wanted to replace their tiny one-room library in Shutesbury, Massachusetts. A bit of viral action on this earnest video helped them raise some funds, but they didn't reach their ambitious goal. Learn more at their website.
- Judy Blume for the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out! (02:10)
Young adult author Judy Blume has had her books banned and challenged repeatedly over her long and illustrious career. Her name continues to appear on the most-banned authors list up to the present. Here, she speaks passionately about why the freedom to read is so critical.
Additional Resources for Fighting Censorship
There's loads of information to be found about all the activities around Banned Books Week, and you can also check out organizations with resources to create lessons around freedom of expression all year round. Edutopia blogger Heather Wolpert-Gawron shared some fantastic ideas last year in her post, "Banned Books Week: Slaying Censorship." What will you do to celebrate Banned Books Week and encourage your kids to be advocates for free speech? Share your ideas in the comments below.
- Banned Books Week Website
- Banned Books Week Handbook
- National Council of Teachers of English Banned Books Week page (also check out their Anti-Censorship Resource Page and their Guideline on The Students' Right to Read)
- TeachHub Video Writing Prompt: Banned Books Week
- American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
- The Banned Books Virtual Read-Out and the Virtual Read-Out YouTube Channel
- The American Library Association -- ALA's List of Frequently Banned or Challenged Books (also check out their fascinating statistics page where they tally the challenges by reason, initiator, institution, and more)
- ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom
- Book Censorship Toolkit from the National Coalition Against Censorship
- Project Censored
- First Amendment in Schools Toolkit from the National Coalition Against Censorship
- ACLU's Censorship page
- "Banning Books from the Classroom: How to Handle Cries for Censorship" from Education World
- #BannedBooksWeek Twitter Hashtag