Banned Books Week started back in 1982 as a response by book lovers, librarians, and others who were growing concerned with the rise in challenges to books in schools, libraries, and book stores. For the full story, check out www.bannedbooksweek.org/ to get the full story as well as resources and other info.
When I entered the library arena in 2007, Banned Books Week wasn't a huge deal in my neck of the woods; I had never even heard of it before being asked to put together a display for my public library showing some of our titles that have been challenged at other libraries. In recent years, however, things have exploded-not only for libraries but for those who advocate for the ability to read whatever one wishes without the fear of that right to be dictated by others. At the Shullsburg School library, I have yet to recieve a formal challenge to any materials, but I have had students in the past make comments about books they feel shouldn't be in the library. Some of our best discussions have been over reading and talking about books on the commonly banned list and we often will make lists of why students feel these books might be found offensive by some people and needed by others. Banned Books often seem to feature marginalized characters, people students hear of in the news and from other sources but may have not yet met personally. Such characters can open up a whole new world and way of thinking to students living in a small rural community and give them a greater sense of empathy towards others-a character trait that is very important to nurture.
Overall, love it or not, Banned Books week serves an important function; it gets folks thinking about what we read and the ideas we share, and isn't that one of the main goals of education?