Protecting Freedom of Speech: Banned Books Week 2017

Graphic courtesy of American Library Association

If you pay attention to the news, you know that we are living in a world where we must balance the right of freedom of expression with the responsibility for respecting alternative viewpoints. When someone is murdered during a protest, as Heather Heyer was in Charlottesville, when the President of the United States suggests NFL players who exercise their right to protest should be fired, we must consider when, if at all, it is appropriate to set ground rules for public speech.

In this charged climate surrounding free speech, this week the American Library Association (ALA) highlights the danger of censorship with Banned Books Week. The ALA uses this annual September event to protect open access to information and the freedom of expression. It also upholds readers’ freedom to choose.

In honor of BBW, here are a few terms that I think Word Nerds and readers should know about:

  • Intellectual freedom: the American and democratic ideal that people should be able to hold, receive, and disseminate ideas
  • Censorship: the suppression of ideas that certain people or groups find offensive
  • Informed selection: an inclusive process, by which librarians, teachers, parents, and administrators gather information about materials and determine what is suitable for the readers they serve
  • Self-censorship: a exclusive process by which individuals or institutions try to deny access to or suppress ideas and information that they find offensive
  • A challenge is an attempt to remove materials from a library or school curriculum, based on the objections of a person or group.
  • A ban is a removal of materials based on the objections of a person or group.

Usually, individuals or groups challenge books with good intentions: to protect children.  However, according to the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights, parents should be the only ones with the right and responsibility to restrict access to reading material for their children, and only their own children.  I agree with this stand.

In years past, I have featured a book review of a banned book during this week.  My life has been a little crazy lately, so I don’t have a new review for you, but here are some links to some of those reviews, should you choose to exercise your right to “informed selection”.

Happy reading!

Julia Tomiak

I believe in the power of words to improve our lives, and I help people find interesting words to read. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Google+. Member of SCBWI and


  1. I always count on you to remind me about banned books week, Julia. My daughter read The Kite Runner her senior year, so it’s not banned in our county! And I think age 17 was a completely appropriate age to read it.

    Eleanor and Park – really?

  2. I always like when you do these posts – education is good! I might not agree with or want my children to read books until a certain age (or at all), but I’m glad we have writers who write about real stuff and the real world. For instance, The Kite Runner is one of my favorites. I don’t necessarily want my children to read it quite yet, but it opened my eyes to a totally different world, culture, and tradition. In addition, I thought the “hard stuff” in the book was very well written, and also important in many ways for us to read…

    (I also really loved Eleanor and Park!)

    1. The Kite Runner was incredibly informative for me too, and really made me appreciate the country I live in! The author does handle the “hard stuff” tastefully, yet realistically. It’s an awesome book.
      Thanks for stopping by!

Comments are closed.