Every year the American Library Association promotes a week-long series of displays and events to draw attention to censorship in schools and public libraries. Simply called Banned Books Week, these events highlights items that have been banned/censored, or otherwise branded as immoral or unfit for circulation.
According to the ALA a challenge “is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.” A breakdown of terminology can be found here.
In 2013 307 formal challenges were reported by the ALA , down from 464 in 2012. That’s more than a challenge a day for every day in 2012. It should be noted that because of the specific definition of “challenge” and “banned” the ALA has limited means to keep statistics on what books are being targeted and why. The ALA estimates that for every challenge they count “four or five remain unreported.”
Public and academic libraries across the country show their support for the right to read through displays, activities, and speakers. These events vary is scope from highlighting the irony of banning some books (for example, banning Fahrenheit 451 ) to promoting conversation about what themes are deemed unreadable and why (like this display ).
The ALA and other library organizations across the country have supportive materials from posters to display templates to t-shirts. Bellow I’ve compiled some of my favorite ideas for displays and activities to draw attention to censorship and promote thoughtful discussion about what we censor.
Share your own favorites in the comments bellow, or on Twitter @SteamLib #BannedBooksWeek.
Time Frame: Week of BBW
Space Needed: Single display shelf, visible from library entrance
Budget Considerations: Staff time and paper
Description: Cover selected historically challenged books in yellow paper. On the paper you can choose to represent the attitude towards the challenge of your choice (thought provoking, fear mongering, sarcastic, and so on). Options include:
-Ironic list of reasons it was challenged (ie Anne Frank being sad, Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian as racist, or Perks of Being a Wallflower as unsuited to age group)
– Excerpts from court cases/media interviews about the book
– Warning sign for reasons banned (ie “contains descriptions of nudity” or “parental guidance strong language”)
Name: Banned Book Mug Shot
Program Type: Interactive display
Time Frame: Week of BBW
Space Needed: Wall for display, cleared area to allow all users access, space for camera/printer/screen
Budget Considerations: Backdrop creation, staff time to supervise users, camera rental (if not owned by the library) paper/ink for printing the pictures
Description: Have patrons pose with their favorite banned book in front of a decorative police mug-shot styled back-drop. Include the height chart, a sign which includes the name of your library, and an “I Read Banned Books”/ “Caught Reading Banned Books” sign. Print a copy of the photo for your patrons to take home with them. For budget reasons this might be set as the ending of an event or workshop.
Name: Character Monologues
Program Type: Event/Presentation
Time Frame: Week of BBW, best suited for story-time or book groups
Space Needed: Presentation space
Budget Considerations: Costumes & props (if provided by the library)
Description: Have book group members/story-time participants/your class read a banned book and perform a monologue from their favorite character’s point of view. Have them address the reasons they have been banned and how they feel as a character or what they believe the person making the challenge miss understood about their book.
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