It’s that wonderful time of the year where we celebrate Banned Books Week which happens to be one of my favorites, both as a reader and as a librarian. The American Library Association defines this week as the following:
“Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”
I credit my love of reading to my mother, who always encouraged me to read and supported my passion for books regardless of their genre, topic, or format. As a child, she would read with me before bed and always asked me questions to prompt a discussion about what we were reading. When I began reading Harry Potter in elementary school she never stopped or censored me. Instead, she decided to read the books for herself so that she could see why some people were concerned about it and she could address anything that might need to be addressed (spoiler: there were none). This lead to years worth of us reading and debating about the series, going to midnight book releases, and seeing all the movies in the theater.
In the 9th grade when weather caused my school to close for almost 2 weeks, she handed me a pile of her favorite and sometimes challenged books and told me to enjoy. These included titles like Lord of the Flies, The Outsiders, Fahrenheit 451, The Pigman, and Alas, Babylon. As a teenager when I began reading romance, she never told me that wasn’t appropriate; she let me make my own decisions about what I wanted to read. Both my parents put in hours of shuttling me to the public library almost every week. My dad even drove me through rush hour traffic across town to the one library branch that had the next book in a series I was currently reading because I couldn’t wait the 2 weeks for home delivery.
From the very beginning, my parents have encouraged and supported a love of reading that has grown beyond anything they could have imagined. Not only in my recreational reading but also through my career. I learned to love public libraries as a child and it’s always stuck with me. When my original career plans where axed I fell back on what I truly loved — reading and libraries. Now I work in a library I love, doing things that don’t truly feel like work.
As the American Library Association’s slogan for Banned Books Week says, Words Have Power.
You can find more on Banned Books Week on the ALA’s website. All artwork in this post is courtesy of the American Library Association.