Sunday, September 26, 2010

Banned Books Week

It's Banned Books Week this week. It actually started yesterday, and continues through the rest of this week, through October 2. You can find out more at the ALA's website. Banned Books Week should be of special significance to Wizard of Oz fans, because the Oz books were banned for so many years from libraries all over the country, and even in Canada. The Wizard of Oz was felt by librarians of the 1920s to 1950s (many of whom hadn't actually read it) to be harmful to children, to promote "wrong" ideas, to be poorly written, or to be too old-fashioned. The rest of the Oz books were lumped in with other series books, which libraries didn't want to devote shelf space to when they could put "better" books there.

Perhaps the most notorious incident came in Detroit in the 1950s, when the head librarian there stated that The Wizard of Oz had never been on their shelves, and never would be. In response, The Detroit Times serialized The Wizard of Oz so that the children of Detroit could read it. But in the '60s and '70s, as a new wave of librarians entered the field and ideas changed as to what made appropriate books for children, The Wizard of Oz and the rest of the Oz books have made their way onto the shelves. The Detroit library system even hosted a major Oz exhibit back in 1982. Yet The Wizard of Oz was still challenged as late as the 1980s as being inappropriate for children in Louisiana.

Although the Oz books appear to be safe, it's possible that they could be challenged or banned again. And it is never appropriate to take away someone's right to read what he or she wants. Kids are good at picking out what they like and are comfortable with, and the whole point of books in schools ist o introduce ideas that may be outside of a student's experience and give them a chance to say whether it's good or bad, and find out what others think.

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