I Celebrated My Right to Read a Banned Book - You Should Too
The American Library Association (ALA) Right to Read Day is an annual event celebrated in the United States to promote literacy and intellectual freedom. It takes place on the Monday of National Library Week (April 24, 2023) and encourages Americans to exercise their right to read by visiting their local library and exploring a variety of books, magazines, and other materials.
Yesterday, I read an excerpt from Brave New World at a local event, the #ReadAcrossSC Read-In. I was one of several readers that read from elementary, middle/high school, and adult selections. More than a dozen readings from banned or threatened books were shared.
“ALA calls on readers everywhere to show our commitment to the First Amendment by doing something concrete to preserve it," ALA president Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada, said in a release for National Library Week 2023. The purpose of Right to Read Day is to raise awareness about the importance of reading and the role that libraries play in promoting literacy and education. The event seeks to remind Americans of their constitutional right to access information without censorship or restriction, as well as the right to express their own ideas and opinions. Last year saw a record number of attempts to ban or restrict library books.
One of the books that were read yesterday is on the top of many banned lists - the award-winning and charming And Tango Makes Three, written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole. I had never read this before and was delighted to hear the story at the Read-In. This picture book tells the story of two male penguins who adopt an egg together. Based on a true story, the couple was given an egg that would have been rejected and ended up raising the chick.
Since And Tango Makes Three tells the story of a family with two fathers (albeit penguin fathers), that makes it objectionable to some people. I found the story to be heartwarming and beautifully illustrated. Not to mention, the story reminded me of Murphy, the "single father" eagle in a Missouri sanctuary that is currently parenting a foundling eaglet and has gone viral. How is that acceptable, but not two penguin dads?
Another key aspect of Right to Read Day is the promotion of literacy and lifelong learning. By encouraging Americans to read widely and explore a variety of subjects, the event seeks to foster a culture of curiosity and intellectual inquiry. This includes the right to access materials that some may find controversial or challenging, as well as the right to express one's own ideas and opinions. A number of states have proposed or passed bills to make it easier to ban or restrict books, including Arizona, Iowa, Texas, Missouri, Florida, and Oklahoma.
ALA officials offered ways to participate in Right to Read Day and National Library Week:
Borrow a library book at risk of being banned.
Write a letter to the editor or to an elected leader.
Attend a meeting of local officials or library or school board.
Stage a public event or peaceful protest in support of libraries.
Overall, Right to Read Day is an important reminder of the fundamental values of free speech, intellectual freedom, and open access to information. By promoting these values, Americans can help to create a more informed and engaged society, one that is better equipped to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.
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