‘How free we are’ | VailDaily.com

‘How free we are’

Today we begin our 30th year of civil disobedience, because civil disobedience can be fun.

The 30th Banned Book Week began Saturday in this great land of ours, and runs all week.

It’s been with us since 1982, always the last week of September. It’s the brainchild of the American Library Association and focuses attention on censorship of books in schools and libraries.

Publishers and booksellers love Banned Book Week.

The Bookworm of Edwards is doing stuff all week, including something semi-subversive Tuesday afternoon, which Lynch said

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

“It’s like Independence Day for booksellers, librarians and people who love to read,” said Besse Lynch, the Bookworm’s marketing director.

Banned Book Week was started by the American Libraries Association because libraries are where challenges usually begin, Lynch said.

The Bookworm sells books; they don’t loan them and like all brick and mortar and online booksellers, they’re a private enterprise, not government supported.

It’s one thing for a disgruntled citizen to take a public or school library to task. It’s quite another to take on a bookstore.

“We get to say, ‘You cannot tell us we cannot have that on our shelves,'” Lynch said.

During Banned Book Week, people are reminded that we’re free to read and think and say pretty much anything we want, Lynch said.

“We don’t often get to think about how free we are,” she said.

Not quite an epidemic

The thing about banned and challenged books is that you can get them just about anywhere – most libraries, bookstores and online, points out Jonah Goldberg. He’s editor at large for the National Review Online, a visiting fellow with the American Enterprise Institute and was writing for USA Today.

“It’s all so very brave and subversive!” Goldberg wrote.

He also points out that as bookstores host readings of banned books, those books will likely be for sale in those very stores.

And most banned books are not really banned, he said.

The American Library Association lumps together banned and challenged books, he said.

Banned books have been removed from a library’s or school’s shelves. A challenge is when someone questions the suitability of a book, he said.

“If you complain that your 8-year-old kid shouldn’t be reading a book with lots of sex, violence or profanity until he or she is a little older, you’re not a good parent; you’re a would-be book-banner,” Goldberg writes.

Reported challenges have dropped from 513 in 2008 to 348 last year, according to the American Library Association.

It’s all perspective, Goldberg said. The U.S. was home to 98,702 public schools in 2009, educating roughly 50 million students, 33,000 private schools and around 10,000 public libraries, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

So, if there were were 500 parent-driven “bans or challenges” in a given year in public schools, that would mean for every 200 public schools, or every 100,000 students, at least one parent even complained about an age-inappropriate book, Goldberg said.

That’s hardly the epidemic it’s purported to be, Goldberg said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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