In 1960, John F. Kennedy said, “If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all—except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors.”
In this same spirit, Banned Books Week is an annual celebration of the freedom to read and to explore ideas that are foreign or uncomfortable to us, and of the freedom from censorship. This year the campaign runs from September 23-29, and the week’s theme is “Banned Books Silence Stories.” This emphasis highlights the fundamental importance of hearing and telling stories. Stories are how we enter into the world, starting from the time our parents read us picture books; stories teach us how to speak and listen, they teach us right from wrong. They help us learn how to empathize with others, and they introduce us to the world’s rich diversity.
Having the freedom to hear all stories and ideas is particularly important for teens. As Katelyn Wolfe, Teen Librarian, explains, “The teenage years are when many people begin the journey of seeking information for themselves, and of figuring out who they are and who they want to be.” Katelyn says that during this stage teens are curious about issues of free speech, free access to information, and censorship. “Teens are surprised when they hear that classic books they are assigned in school, like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Grapes of Wrath, were once banned. And they’re upset to find out that banning books is still a practice, even books they’ve grown up with, like the Harry Potter series.”
With the “Banned Books Silence Stories” theme in mind, the teen department is holding two events during Banned Books Week. On Tuesday, September 25 at 6 p.m., teens ages 12-18 who register here are invited to join us at the library to create banned books crafts. Then, on Saturday, September 29 at 1 p.m., teens ages 12-18 can attend a creative writing workshop led by Langley Shazor of The Casual Word. Langley will bring his collection of typewriters for attendees to use, or teens can bring their own writing devices. Registration is also required for this event; please register here. There will also be a photo booth set up all week for teens to take photos with their favorite banned books.