Young people today find themselves caught in the center of an interesting dichotomy today. Many schools districts around the country continue to ban the teaching of books like Tom Sawyer and To Kill a Mockingbird, arguing that the content of these literary masterpieces is too controversial and negative to which to expose students.
At the same time, students enjoy remarkably easy access to virtually any kind of reading material that is available online, even the very books that have been banned in the classroom. The idea that something should be or can be banned simply because of its content is a laughable concept to students who are adept at researching and finding just about anything on the Internet.
So how do the millennials learn about literary censorship and its implications on the society of which they are expected to become contributing members? The answer may well lie in Banned Books Week, a celebration of taboo literature that libraries across the U.S. celebrate each year during the last week of September and the first week of October.
Appreciating First Amendment Freedom of Expression
Because they have access to just about any kind of reading material they are interested in, young people growing up arguably lack a genuine appreciation for the freedoms found in the Bill of Rights, primarily the freedom to write about and express their opinions. They have never witnessed authors have their books banned or heavily censored.
With Banned Books Weeks, libraries in the U.S. want to remind students that there was once a time, even not too long ago, when controversial books never made it to the bookstore shelf. Because they could not be sold the public, they also were never made available for checkout in libraries.
This annual celebration serves as a reminder that the freedom to express oneself and write about topics that are deemed taboo should be protected and appreciated. Without proper appreciation for this freedom, it could vanish from society forever.
Another reason why Banned Books Weeks is so important is that it teaches kids to not shy away from controversy. They are growing up in a world that increasingly wants to whitewash any kind of controversy and negativity. Their teachers and others in authority continue to tell them they have the right not to be offended.
As Banned Books Week demonstrates, however, being offended and dealing with controversy are everyday parts of life with which people must learn to deal. It is not realistic for students today to think that they can live in a world where taboo topics will be swept under the proverbial rug.
Banned Books Week encourages them to tackle sensitive subjects like those found in books that were once banned. When students read books that make them uncomfortable, angry, and even sad, they gain the insight they effect change in their own lives and in the world in which they could someday become leaders.
Censorship is a difficult concept for young people today to grasp. Libraries are teaching kids to appreciate their freedoms and to embrace controversy with Banned Books Week.