Sunday Sundries: What can I do?

Knowledge Is Power

With so many causes in the world when you hear about a new cause it may seem overwhelming at first to figure out what you can do to help and how to find out more.  Banned Books Week has been around since 1982 and many people still don’t know it exists, or that it is a cause that could use your help.  The dedication of librarians, teachers, students and bookstore owners around the country have helped keep over a thousand books from being banned from the public and has recorded over 10,000 challenges since 1990 (some books have been challenged multiple times to be banned).  While 1,000 may not seem like that high of a number even one book being banned from a public library or school is censorship.  Every book may not be intended for every reader, but each of us (or our parents) should make the decision on what is right for us to read – one individual should not make the decision for all.

The observance of Banned Books Weeks is celebrating the freedom to read freely—and encourages us not to take this freedom for granted.  So what can you do this week to participate?  Below is a list of ideas and websites from the ALA, as well as a few from Junkie2, to get you started.

Stay informed. If you read or hear about a challenge at your school or public library, support your librarian and free and open access to library materials. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom estimates they learn of only 20 to 25 percent of book challenges. Let them know if there is a challenge in your community. Find out what the policy is for reviewing challenged materials at your school or public library. Join the Intellectual Freedom Action News (IFACTION) e-list.

Help spread the word about Banned Books Week by downloading the Banned Books web badges on our Free Downloads page and hosting them on your blogs and home pages. You can also create a public service announcement (see their sample PSA script for ideas).

  • The power of the interweb makes this incredibly easy, even if you aren’t a blogger.  Take to Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and the like and get the word out there to your friends and family about Banned Books Week.
  • Find easy to copy and paste sample messages here.

Get involved. Go to school board meetings. Volunteer to help your local school or public library create an event that discusses the freedom to read and helps educate about censorship—maybe a First Amendment film festival, a readout, a panel discussion, an author reading or a poster contest for children illustrating the concept of free speech.

Speak out. Write letters to the editor, your public library director and your local school principal supporting the freedom to read. Talk to your neighbors and friends about why everyone should be allowed to choose for themselves and their families what they read. Encourage your governor, city council and/or mayor to proclaim “Banned Books Week – Celebrating the Freedom to Read” in your state or community.

Exercise your rights! Check out or re-read a favorite banned book. Encourage your book group to read and discuss one of the books. Give one of your favorite books as a gift.

  • Start a book club or reading group!
    • Barnes & Noble teaches you how
    • Simon & Schuster provide resources.
    • These ladies on WordPress have the right idea, reading is hot!  Start your own blog to talk about books with your friends, its easy to do and great if you and your friends have differing schedules or are too far away to meet regularly.
    • Oprah’s Book Club Don’t knock it cause it has that little  “O Approved” sticker on it, she [i.e. probably her producers] is quite skilled at picking books.  As a bonus those who don’t have anyone in their lives to form a book club with can participate in online forums and occasionally read/interact with the author, among other book related activities.

Join the Freedom to Read Foundation. The Foundation is dedicated to the legal and financial defense of intellectual freedom, especially in libraries. You can also support the cause by buying Banned Books Week posters, buttons and T-shirts online.

Read with your Children: many books that are challenged are children’s books.  Don’t be caught off guard if your child happens to read a book that’s topic may either go against what you believe or create questions you aren’t ready to answer.  Pick out books with your kids.  Read them first or read with them.  Be prepared.

  • List of most commonly challenged children and young adult books
  • What to Read When A new book by Pam Allyn
    • One of the keys to raising a lifetime reader is matching the right book to the right moment in a child’s young life. With more than 8,000 children’s titles being published each year, that “matching” can be overwhelmingly difficult—unless they have this wonderful compendium from Pam Allyn. More than a book, it’s a “brass compass” to great children’s literature. – Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook
  • Librarian’s blog entry responding to a parent’s request to not carry the book “My Uncle Bobby’s Wedding”.
    • “In short, most of the books we have are designed not to interfere with parents’ notions of how to raise their children, but to support them. But not every parent is looking for the same thing.”
    • “Library collections don’t imply endorsement; they imply access to the many different ideas of our culture, which is precisely our purpose in public life.”

READ! Already a big reader?  Or are you interested in reading, but don’t want to waste your time with a book that could be bad?  Find the next book you should read by checking out these links:

  • What should I read next? Enter a book you like and the site will analyze their database of real readers’
    favourite books (over 65,000 and growing) to suggest what you could read next.
  • Which book Are you in the mood for happy or sad?  Funny or serious?  Safe or Disturbing?  Short or long?  Find a book to fit your mood by choosing from a scale what you’re in the mood for from 12 different fields.  A completely new way of choosing what to read.
  • Newsweek tells you what to read now, and why.
  • Entertainment Weekly (little junkies’ media bible) provides review on new releases.
  • Oprah’s Book Club Don’t knock it cause it has that little  “O Approved” sticker on it, she [i.e. probably her producers] are quite skilled at picking books.  As a bonus those who don’t have anyone in their lives to form a book club with can participate in online forums and occasionally read/interact with the author, among other book related activities.
  • Book Lists Galore
    • Newsweek’s top 100 – a meta list
    • Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) provides you with a list of lists ranging from award winners to Best/Popular/Top lists
    • New York Times Best Sellers Includes Best Seller lists for:  Graphic Books, Children’s Books, Hardcover Non-Fiction, Hard Cover Fiction, Paperback Fiction, Paperback Trade Fiction, Paperback Mass-Market Fiction,  Paperback/Hardcover Advice, etc.
    • Everyman’s Library lists and collections of classics.
    • 100 Best Books by some random guy.
    • Lists of Bests Lists of Bests is a place where you can : Create a list of your favorite products, places, people, goals, food, etc., mark off your progress on an existing list, compare your progress on a list with someone else.
    • Rory Gilmore’s Book List!
  • Create your own book list and track everything you’ve read, everything you own, everything you want to read AND be able to interact with friends and authors:
    • Good Reads (favorite of J1 and J2)
      • Have you ever wanted a better way to:
        • Get great book recommendations from people you know.
        • Keep track of what you’ve read and what you’d like to read.
        • Form a book club, answer book trivia, collect your favorite quotes.
    • Shelfari A social network for people who love books.
    • Library Thing A home for your books, a community of 850,000 book lovers.

Maya Angelou

The American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the ALA; the American Society of Journalists and Authors; the Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores sponsor Banned Books Week. The Library of Congress Center for the Book endorses the observance.

American libraries are the cornerstones of our democracy. Libraries are for everyone, everywhere. Because libraries provide free access to a world of information, they bring opportunity to all people. Now, more than ever, celebrate the freedom to read @ your library! Read an old favorite or a new banned book this week.

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