Celebrate Banned Books Week

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Image via Shelby O'Brien

A collection of the risqué novels throughout history. Taken September 20, 2022.

Shelby O'Brien, Reporter

This past Sunday marked the start of an annual event, Banned Books Week, which celebrates the freedom to read. According to the Banned Books Week website, this national event is usually held during the last week of September. This year, Banned Books Week will run from Sunday, Sept. 18 to Saturday, Sept. 24.

At Arapahoe Community College (ACC), the Library & Learning Commons has many books waiting to be read. The librarians are full of knowledge and can help students find what they are looking for. During Banned Books Week, students can stop by the ACC Library to check out the books that made the Top 10 Challenged Books of 2021 list or find a good read.

“Books and information in general [are] one of the great equalizers… you can take away homes, you can take away freedoms, you can take away pretty much anything, but the knowledge that you gain yourself and the willingness to learn… no one can ever take that away from you,” said Courtney Johnston, Head Reference and Instruction Librarian at ACC.

Over the years, many books have been met with opposition because of their content.  Books are often banned due to things such as race, profanity, sex, violence, and the unpopular religious or political views expressed in the book. Banned Books Week is aptly named for recognizing books that have faced bans, challenges, and/or censorship across the country.

A collection of frequently banned books. Taken September 20, 2022. (Image via Shelby O’Brien)

The first Banned Books Week celebration happened in 1982 and has been an annual tradition for 40 years.  What led up to the celebration in 1982 was the Supreme Court Case of Island Trees School District v. Pico.

In 1976, a high school student named Steven Pico and four other classmates “sued their school district in Long Island, NY, for banning 11 books from their classrooms and school libraries” according to an article from the National Coalition Against Censorship.  This was the first time this type of censorship case played out in the Supreme Court.

On June 25, 1982, six years into the legal battle, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Pico and the other students.  The school district could not ban or censor books simply because they didn’t agree with the content.  In the months following this decision, Banned Book Week became a celebrated event.

This court case has allowed students, teachers, parents, etc. the ability to exercise their First Amendment Rights. The freedom of speech found in books and the ability to access those books is valuable to society. Thus, Banned Books Week continues to gain attention and support.

In the past couple of years, there has been a large increase in the number of attempts to ban books, according to the American Library Association. Their website says there were “729 challenges to library, school and university materials and services in 2021, resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals.” Black or LGBTQIA+ authors and content make up the majority of attempted book bans.

Banned Books Week is a time to highlight all types of books. It gives a nod to the flow of free ideas in society. Everyone, including students, teachers, and community members, can visit the Banned Books Week website to find more information about virtual events.