Banned Books Week, September 20 - 27

Celebrate Your Freedom To Read
Banned Books Week, the national celebration of First Amendment rights, will be held this year from September 20 - 27. With the theme "Open Your Mind to a Banned Book," the event marks its 22nd year.

As provisions of the USA Patriot Act cast a shadow on the freedom that Americans have had to keep private the records of their book purchases and library withdrawals, Banned Books Week and the protection of First Amendment Rights have special significance.

Over 1,000 independent booksellers and 2,500 libraries participated in Banned Books Week in 2002, said Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), and this year "with booksellers and librarians strongly supporting the Freedom to Read Protection Act to restore privacy protections, it has never been more critical to use Banned Books Week to communicate our concerns to the general public."

Harry Potter is number one on many lists -- including the list of books challenged this year around the country. In the first legal challenge to a restriction on the use of Harry Potter books in the public schools, a federal judge in April ordered a school district in Cedarville, Arkansas to return J.K. Rowling's books to the open shelves of its libraries. A student and her parents sued the Cedarville school board last year after it removed the books in response to a complaint that the books show "that there are 'good witches' and 'good magic'" and that they teach "parents/teachers/rules are stupid and something to be ignored."

Oprah's Book Club's recent selection, John Steinbeck's East of Eden, was called "ungodly and obscene" in Anniston, Alabama, where it was removed, then reinstated on a restricted basis in the town's school libraries in 1982. In 1991, the book was challenged in the Greenville, South Carolina, schools.

"Unfortunately, any book can come under attack for any reason," Finan said. "Steinbeck's books have been deemed 'filthy' and 'profane,' while Maurice Sendak's popular In the Night Kitchen has been challenged for nudity. I hope families will pick up a banned book and read it and discuss it together."

One of bookstore customers' most popular promotions, Banned Books Week is sponsored by ABA, ABFFE, the American Library Association (ALA), the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores. Banned Books Week is also endorsed by the Center for the Book of the Library of Congress.

Banned Books Week kits, including three posters and a list of books challenged over the year, can be ordered from ALA for $29.