Celebrating Banned Books Week

For over thirty years, the last week in September has been designated as Banned Books Week. According to the American Library Association: “Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.
Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States. The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings. Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned.
As I’ve gotten ready to celebrate in previous years by volunteering to read from a banned book at a celebration, I’ve realized that in addition to banning, another form of censorship is not providing the book in accessible format. When I was growing up, Nancy Drew books for example were not available in Braille or on tape. So I didn’t know what the other girls were talking about when they discussed them. I know funds were limited so mainly “great” literature was made accessible and I’m grateful I could read “Little Women” for example. Nowadays with the advent of Bookshare and Learning Ally (formerly Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic) much more reading material is available to people with print disabilities. For example within a week of its publication in regular print, J. K. Rowling’s first novel for adults “Casual Vacancy” was posted on Bookshare. There are certainly many books I’d like to read that are not available still. For example, “Winter Journal” was only available for a while for Canadian users of Bookshare because of copyright issues, but now has become available for U.S. users. When I wanted to attend a series on Yeats at my public library, I had to get the handouts and then search the poems individually on the Internet to find accessible versions.
But my friends who are large print readers and don’t want to invest in or learn to use an I device where you can enlarge print tell me choices are slim for them still. Having already read “Shades of Gray” which never would have been available in the bad old days, I think I’ll look at the list of most challenged books and pick one. “Hunger Games” is on this year’s list and we’ll be discussing it in a book club I’m in. Since it is available in alternate format, let the reading begin!

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