Why should anyone care about Banned Books Week? I'd like to turn to YA author Ellen Hopkins, an author whose edgy teen books deal with drug addiction, prostitution, and other difficult issues. I studied her works and life for a library school project, and was deeply moved by her fierce commitment to intellectual freedom and the freedom to read. All her books have been challenged at one time or another, and, perhaps more shocking, she has been challenged as a speaker; in 2009 an invitation to speak at a school in Oklahoma was rescinded, as was an invitation to participate in a Texas Teen Lit book festival, after complaints by a few parents.
What does Hopkins have to say about challenging books? She writes:
"I don't believe any one person should have the power to decide what everyone else does or does not get to read. Every reader has a different life experience and what might be "too much" for one may speak loudly to another. If you don't like a book, don't read it. But don't dare try to speak for everyone else!"
If you'd like to participate in a fun way in Banned Books Week, check out the Banned Books auction of original children's books art, donated by an array of wonderful illustrators including Bruce Degen, Jon Agee, David Shannon, Anna Dewdney, and many more. Also, you can join the virtual Read-out lasting all week, in which you can upload videos of yourself reading a banned book.
Hopkins wrote in her blog last year on the anniversary of September 11:
Words do have power. In America, the First Amendment grants us the right to believe, to worship, to speak our minds as we please. There is a responsibility that comes with that, however...too many of us word people find the easier path not to write with courage. Not to stand up for our beliefs. Not to push back against would-be censors or the people who use words to divide. I’m pushing back today, as a responsible American. This is my country, and I love it, and I love the freedoms it was founded upon. If you want to burn a book, it’s your right. Burn it. And I’ll keep writing new ones to replace it.Thank you Ellen, and all those who fight against abridging one of our most fundamental freedoms--the freedom to read.