The Freedom to Read

September 24 – 30, 2022 marked national Banned Books Week – and before you think it’s a celebration or encouragement to remove books from libraries or classrooms, take heart that it is just the opposite. Banned Books Week, sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA), aims to protect our individual rights to decide what we and our children read. This year, the theme was “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us,” and as storytellers and communicators, we at MacKenzie couldn’t agree more.

We can’t put it any better than the folks at the ALA: “Sharing stories important to us means sharing part of ourselves. Books reach across boundaries and build connections between readers. Censorship, on the other hand, creates barriers. Banned Books Week is both a reminder of the unifying power of stories and the divisiveness of censorship.”

In 2021 alone, the ALA tracked 1,597 challenges to library, school and university materials. Most targeted books were by or about Black or LGBTQIA+ persons. So far in 2022, the numbers exceed last year – and we’re not done yet. And how many books were challenged or removed that somehow were never reported, or just “disappeared” from circulation?

Books bind us together, challenge our assumptions, entertain us and take us places we want, and sometimes fear, to go. Freedom to choose is the bedrock of democracy, and banning books only exacerbates our fractious politics and intolerance of others who may not share our views. The local library as a point of contentious debates and vitriolic meetings? Please, a little quiet reflection and respect for one of the last bastions of community pride and civility.

As many a first-grade teacher has said, “Books are our friends.” Let’s treat them as such.