Celebrate the freedom to read

Banned Books Week 2017.Happy Banned Books Week, everyone! This time of year, I like to take a moment to reflect and celebrate the freedom to read. Throughout history, the first thing tyrants sought to control was information and literacy. In the 1800s, it was illegal for enslaved people to learn how to read. The Nazi party banned and burned books in Germany. And throughout the world, history books are edited to alter perceptions and erase events and practices that the government either is ashamed of or seeks to deny (books in Southern states asserting the Civil War was about “states’ rights” and economics; China re-writing history books to extend the Sino-Japanese War).

So this week, and every week, I encourage you to read widely. Read whatever you want. Read stories about people whose experiences are wildly different from yours, and about people whose experiences you’ve shared. Read about the parts of history we should be ashamed of. Listen to the voices of the formerly- and currently-oppressed. Read about the things that those who use fear to maintain power would have us deny or forget.

As the Doctor once said, books are “the best weapons in the world.” Arm yourselves.

If you want to learn more about Banned Books Week, check out the American Library Association’s list of the Top Ten Challenged Books of 2016. Have you read any of the books on the list?

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