Right to Read Is Fundamental

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Thomas Jefferson, founding father and one-time owner of the largest privately held library in the United States (a library he later donated to replace the original Library of Congress after it was burned down) once said:

“I am far from presuming to direct the reading of my fellow citizens, who are good enough judges themselves of what is worthy (of) their reading.”

Ah,if only everyone had as much sense as Thomas Jefferson.

This week marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, a time when librarians, teachers, authors, readers, and lovers of freedom defend our right to read whatever it is that we see fit.

Over the years, the banned books list has been fodder for much speculation. We may wonder, as we look it over, what in the world could possibly be objectionable about titles like “A Light in the Attic” by Shel Silverstein. We might also acknowledge the possible wisdom of restricting the availability of more racy volumes, such as “Sex” by Madonna.

Personally, however, as I look over this list each year, my most prominent feeling is that of having a simple freedom trampled on. While I agree whole-heartedly that not every book out there is remotely appropriate for my children to read, I feel as though that determination should be made by me for my children, and you for yours.

Truth be told, I am fairly conservative in my parenting style. I do restrict what I allow my children to watch, read, and do, as I believe good parents should. One thing I don’t want to restrict them from however is exposure to ideas that are different from ours.

I want them to be more global in their perspective than I was raised to be. I want them to appreciate and embrace those of different cultures, faiths, and ideologies. I want them to read about racism, and religious persecution, so as never to be comfortable watching it repeated. I want them to believe that everyone has a voice, and no one else has the right to quiet that voice.

When we allow books to be removed for all, because they are opposed by a few, we are doing just that, quieting a voice that may well have something incredible to say.

In this election year, this notion of personal freedom is more relevant than ever.  As we hear candidates debate over things such as the freedom to marry whom we want, and choose our own healthcare, we hear the ideal repeated on a grander scale:  we all want to have the freedom to choose what’s right for us, based on our own values.

Last year alone, there were 326 attempts to remove books from school curricula and libraries.  Bill Moyers, honorary chair for this year’s Banned Books Week, had this to say:

“Some of the most inspiring and mind-opening words ever written, are threatened with removal because they offended a self-deputized vigilante who wants to deny an entire community’s curiosity and passion to learn.

“Censorship is the enemy of truth – even more than a lie. A lie can be exposed; censorship can prevent us knowing the difference.”

Many booksellers join together at this time of year to promote the idea of freedom of choice by displaying a selection of banned books. This year, Dan at Lido Village Books has special ordered Banned Books bookmarks that are available to customers, and he stocks many books from the banned books list.

Why not stop in, say hello to Dan, and join me in asserting your freedom from censorship by picking up a banned book.

For a list of banned books and more information on Banned Books Week, visit ala.org. To conatct Lido Village Books, call 949-673-2549.

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