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[2006 BBW logo; Read Banned Books: They're Your Ticket to Freedom; Link to the ALA's Banned Books Week page; http://www.ala.org/bbooks/]

I’m going to take a short, non-knitting side trip here to remember that this is the 25th anniversary of Banned Book Week.

Banned Book Week celebrates our freedom to choose and to express our opinion, even if that opinion is unpopular; and emphasizes the importance of making each opinion available to those who want to read it. Our freedom of speech is one of our most precious rights. Without it, I wouldn’t be blogging here today and you wouldn’t be reading my words.

I grew up in a town that had a good library. It was housed in a big, imposing, two-story building. The adult section of the library was on the first two floors. The stacks seemed to go on for miles. The children’s section was in what was essentially the basement. It had its own entrance around the side of the library. There was a narrow flight of stairs from the depths of the children’s section up into the light of the adult section, but kids were not allowed to use the stairs. Kids under 16 were not allowed in the adult section at all, even if accompanied by adults. Even if they were quiet. Even if they only wanted to read.

Mama took Bro and I to the library at least weekly. She would go up to the rarefied heights of the adult section while Bro and I stayed down in the children’s section. We were all great readers. So by the time I was in 5th or 6th grade I’d read pretty much all of the books in the children’s section. I started reading the books that Mama brought home for herself. Then I started asking Mama for other books by authors I had liked, or other books on the same subjects or written in the same way. (I was really big on historical fiction, as I recall.) Then, with Mama’s collusion, I began to break the rules. When the Children’s Librarian was looking the other way, I’d sneak up the back stairs and into the back stacks in the adult section and pick out books that looked good. Mama and I would rendezvous in the back, and she’d check out the books for me so I could read them.

Mama believed that if you were old enough to be interested in a book, you were old enough to read it. She never censored what I read or what I watched or what opinions I was exposed to. Instead we discussed our books and she would explain to me why a particular book did or didn’t fit into her own value system. I was allowed to have my own opinion. I grew up in an environment of intellectual freedom that I still treasure, and I raised my own son the same way.

Years later when I was in town for a family gathering, I visited the Library with Bro and Mama. It’s a county museum now, with exhibits showing the founding and early history of the town. I believe that was the first time I’d entered the Library building through the front door.

Please see the web site of the American Library Association Banned Books Week for more information on banned and challenged books and on Banned Book Week activities. I have a permanent page here where I list the top 10 banned and challenged books of the previous year, plus other frequently banned and challenged books. Please take time to read at least one this year.

Next time we return to knitting…



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