Say No to Censorship

Thomas Jefferson wrote to his friend John Adams, “I cannot live without books.” He literally spent a fortune on building a library.
The author of the Declaration of Independence knew the value of free speech, and worked diligently to include it in the Bill of Rights.
Books – and the freedom to read, something Jefferson would have understood quite well – are celebrated each year during Banned Books Week, which this year runs from Sept. 22-28.
Libraries draw attention to the event by displaying books that have faced censorship – a number that totals more than 11,300 since 1982, when Banned Books Week was launched. The American Library Association noted 464 challenges in 2012.

Among the recent challenges are “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini and “Beloved” by Toni Morrison. Classics facing challenges include “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Call of the Wild,” “Moby-Dick,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Red Badge of Courage.” And the celebrated children’s classic “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak often makes the list as well.
Of course some books contain viewpoints offensive to some readers. The simple solution? Don’t read the book. If you have children, ask what they are reading, and if you object to the book, explain your reasons and take it away. That’s a parent’s right. But no one has the right to keep a book away from the rest of the world.
Banned Books Week celebrates open access to the expression of ideas, even those out of the mainstream. Put simply, it means that what you like to read may not be what I like to read, but neither one of us has the right to prevent the other from reading what we want. As the old saying goes, that’s why they make chocolate and vanilla.
The week is also a reminder not to take your freedom to read for granted. There are people eager to proclaim to us – and to libraries and book stores – what we can read, and what we should be forbidden to read. In plain English, that’s called censorship. And there’s no place for it in America.
Make it personal. Imagine you don’t have the right to select what you want to read, only what others think you should read. But you can’t think for yourself when restraints are placed on the information available. That’s why newspapers cherish press freedom, and why our country’s founders enshrined it in the Constitution.
So this week, celebrate your right to think for yourself. Read a book. Any book you want.

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