7 Reasons to Celebrate Banned Books Week

Originally published September 2014

Happy Banned Books Week, everyone!

For more than 30 years, Banned Books Week has been celebrated to affirm what all book lovin’ people know—there’s no good reason to ban a book.

Here are 7 reasons you need to get behind Banned Books Week:

  1. Subversity rocks. Even the most mild-mannered kid can earn rebel cred when they pick up a copy of “Captain Underpants” and read. Better yet, teach your 8-year-old how to say, “Anarchy NOW!” as they pull it out of their backpack for independent reading at school this week.
  2. Banned books are usually good books. Well, maybe not to the crowd that’s trying to ban them, but if a book is a target—say, ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower” or “Looking for Alaska”—then chances are there’s something within its pages that someone else is trying to tell you you shouldn’t see. This is not to say I don’t respect a parent’s role in guiding what their own children read. Parents definitely should have a say in what kids are exposed to. Which leads to …
  3. Who has the right to be your thought police? As mentioned above, I do think parents play an important role in guiding what their own children should read. I understand if a parent of a seventh grader is uncomfortable with their child reading a book with explicit language or sexual situations. But I also think parenting roles apply to just your own set of kids. At the end of the day, the real role of a parent or teacher is to grow those critical thinking skills so that a child has the ability to sort out the good from the bad, the right from the wrong.
  4. It’s an easy way to get involved in a movement. If you’re looking to raise little do-gooders, kids that want to change the world, there’s no easier way then placing a book in their hands and saying, “Read this and tell me why you think someone else doesn’t want you to.”
  5. Banned books open doors to discussion. Did you know people are STILL trying to ban “The Diary of Anne Frank?” Or “The Color Purple?” This year’s list of the most frequently challenged books include novels that cover racism, sexuality and violence against women. Oh yeah, and a book about a librarian trying to protect books in a war zone. Because you know, it has violence in it.
  6. Banned books can be easy on the eyes. This year, the focus of Banned Books Week is on the graphic novel. I love graphic novels in that they are more accessible to kids that struggle with words. I may not think “Captain Underpants” has a Pulitzer Prize-winning storyline, but thank God for Dav Pilkey creating something that my boys loved to read. They are readers, in part, because of books like these.

7. No one should ever tell you what you can or can’t read. I love books. Books have been my best friend, books have been my inspiration, books have been my education. Books bring people from all walks of life together. Books engage strangers in conversation. Books open dialogue about differences in a positive fashion. Books are freedom of expression, they are an art form, they track the history of our lives.

And they are protected by our Constitution. With that, I’m dropping the mic and picking up a book. Go read something this week.

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