Go Ahead, Think for Yourself

Banned Books Week is here again, with the week of Sept. 27 through Oct. 3 devoted to celebrating the freedom to read what you want.

The oddly named week draws attention to censorship efforts that continue to this day, and many libraries feature displays of books that people have attempted to keep everyone else from reading. Among the most well known books hit with banning attempts are Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “Jack London’s “Call of the Wild,” “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller,” and “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury.

“Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, “Red Badge of Courage” by Stephen Crane, and “Moby-Dick” by Herman Melville also made the challenged list.

These and many, many other books have been banned or challenged by people who think they have the right to tell the rest of us what we should – and should never – read.

Does a person or group’s religious or political beliefs give them the right to tell you what to read? Do you as a parent abdicate your duty to supervise your children’s upbringing, including their reading material, in favor of someone with a louder voice?

Those are the questions you should ask as you think about the pleasure you experienced reading a “banned” book. Did it make you think? Some people hope that never happens.

Of course some books contain viewpoints offensive to some readers. The simple solution? Don’t read the book. Offensive content in someone’s eyes doesn’t give anyone the right to keep a book away from the rest of the world. Another word for that is censorship. And there’s no place for it in America.

And remember, even when books are assigned in school, parents can ask that their child be excused if they find the material offensive.

Because censorship attempts keep happening, Banned Books Week reminds us not to take the freedom to read for granted. Banned Books Week celebrates open access to the expression of ideas, even those out of the mainstream. It means that what you like to read may not be what I like to read, but neither one of us has the right to prevent the other from reading what we want.

You can’t think for yourself when restraints govern the information available. That’s why newspapers cherish press freedom, and why our country’s founders enshrined it in the Constitution.

So we urge you, this week especially, to pick up a book someone doesn’t want you to read, and celebrate your right to think for yourself.

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