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.