Join the ACLU of Texas “Banned Books Club”

By Dotty Griffith
ACLU of Texas Public Education Director

This week is marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, an annual event that celebrates the freedom to read and calls attention to the wealth of creative expression that is stifled when books can be barred from library shelves. The ACLU has always believed that our country functions best when citizens exercise their right to freely explore the world around them, and, we’ll be blogging about banned books and censorship all week. Join the conversation using #IReadBannedBooks.

If there’s one thing harder to put down than a good book, it’s a good book that’s been banned by those who would tell others what they should and shouldn’t read. To celebrate Banned Books Week, the ACLU of Texas publishes a report every year about the books banned, restricted and challenged in Texas schools. We gather this information through open records requests to Texas’ more than 1,100 independent school districts.

Fortunately, there is good news this year! The 16th edition of Free People Read Freely reveals that teachers, librarians and administrators are working with parents to cut down on the numbers of books that are banned. More schools than ever refer challenges to academic committees instead of to an administrator taking unilateral action or to the politically sensitive school board. Some schools actually require parents to read the books that they wish to challenge. (Often that is enough to convince parents that the books have merit!)

Often hot button social issues –  such as LGBT rights, and pop culture topics tinged with romance, like vampires – ignite would-be censors. But classics, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, inevitably still draw complaints. Of course, we respect the right of parents to determine whether a book is suitable for their children and applaud cooperative efforts by teachers, librarians and parents to find alternate titles in those circumstances. We firmly believe, however, that one parent’s beliefs should not dictate what others may read.

This year we inaugurated the ACLU of Texas Banned Books Club on our Facebook page during the 30th annual Banned Books Week. We are reading and posting about our favorite banned books and encouraging comment on our page – check out our page to join the conversation. And be sure to check out the banned book quote of the day on the ACLU Nationwide Facebook page, as well.

Welcome to Banned Books Week, Sept. 25 – Oct. 2

By Jose Medina
ACLU of Texas Media Coordinator

Banned Books Week starts today. And as the ACLU of Texas does each year, it has released “Free People Read Freely,” a report on challenged, restricted and banned books in Texas public schools.

Why we do this
Books are a tangible representation of our freedom of expression. Banning books is often an expression of fear – fear of differences, fear of new ideas and thoughts, fear of the unknown. No matter how well-intended, banning books – especially by those who won’t even read the ‘offensive’ material to see if the educational value meets or exceeds the weight of the objections against them – is censorship and infringes on the rights of a free society. Parents should exercise their rights to decide what is appropriate reading material for their own children; but they overreach when they seek to decide for other parents what is good for all children.

This year we’re happy to report only 20 books were banned in Texas schools. But that’s still 20 cases in which censorship was successful.

Some examples of documented bans in this year’s report include “The Gossip Girl” series, Judy Blume’s “Forever…” and Lauren Myracle’s “ttfn.” See the full list in our report.

In observance of Banned Books Week, we’re asking you to pick up a book and read. Don’t have time? Fine, then give the gift of a book. There are also plenty of Banned Books Week events all over the country, including those listed below and sponsored by the ACLU of Texas. For more Banned Books Week events all over the country, visit the American Library Association Banned Books Week Web site.

Now get readin’.

ACLU of Texas Banned Books Week Events

Corpus Christi
What: Readings of banned books
Where: Half Priced Books, 5425 South Padre Island Drive
When: Saturday, Sept. 25, 4:30 p.m.

Celebrity readers will include Reverend Phil Douglas of the Unitarian Universalist Church and Leanne Libby, columnist for the Caller-Times.

What: Houston Chapter Banned Books Event
Where: Central Library, 500 McKinney,
When: Saturday, Oct. 2, 11 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.

11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Banned Books Discussion: J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye”

12 p.m. – 3 p.m.
2nd Annual Banned Books Readout
Celebrate your freedom to read with local educators, poets, authors, avid readers and more join members of the Houston Chapter of the ACLU of Texas and staff of the Houston Public Library to read passages from your favorite banned books.

3:15 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.
Banned Books Movie: James and the Giant Peach
A special presentation of the film based on Ronald Dahl’s classic book. Directed by Tim Burton. Rated PG.

San Antonio
What: Readings and discussions
Where: Central Library Gallery, 600 Soledad St. (Downtown)
When: Thursday, Sept. 30, 7 p.m.

Dotty Griffith, Director of Public Education for the ACLU of Texas will discuss 2010 Banned Books Report and the continuing impact of “To Kill a Mockingbird” 50 years later.

Event is free and open to the public.