2011.09.28 Gayle Hazelbaker: Read a banned book

Written by David Green.

Read a banned book

Throughout the country, most children are starting a new academic year. Teachers are sending out the lists of required readings, and parents are beginning to gather books. In some cases, classics like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Catcher in the Rye” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” may not be included in the curriculum or available in the school library due to challenges made by parents or administrators.

Since 1990, the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has recorded more than 10,000 book challenges, including 513 in 2008. A challenge is a formal, written complaint requesting a book be removed from library shelves or school curriculum. About three out of four of all challenges are to material in school or school libraries, and one in four is to material in public libraries. OIF estimates that less than one-quarter of challenges are reported and recorded.

It is thanks to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents and students that most challenges are unsuccessful and reading materials like “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” “Slaughterhouse Five,” the Harry Potter series, and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice series remain available.

The most challenged and/or restricted reading materials have been books for children. However, challenges are not simply an expression of a point of view. On the contrary, they are an attempt to remove materials from public use, thereby restricting the access to others. Even if the motivation to ban or challenge a book is well intentioned, the outcome is detrimental. Censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves. For children, decisions about what books to read should be made by the people who know them best—their parents.

In support of the right to choose books freely for ourselves, I urge you to join me in recognizing Banned Books Week—the annual celebration of our right to access books without censorship—Sept. 24 through Oct. 1. This year’s observance commemorates the most basic freedom in a democratic society—the freedom to read freely—and encourages us not to take this freedom for granted.

Since its inception in 1982, Banned Books Week has reminded us that while not every book is intended for every reader, each of us has the right to decide for ourselves what to read, listen to, or view.

American libraries are the cornerstone of our democracy. Libraries are for everyone everywhere. Because libraries provide free access to a world of information, they bring opportunity to all people. Now, more than ever, celebrate the freedom to read at your library. Read an old favorite or a new banned book this week.

– Gayle Hazelbaker

East Street North, Morenci

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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