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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Banned Books Week

Stand Up for your Right to Read

Banned Books Week began in 1982, as a way to bring banned books to the attention of the public. It has continued every year since as an annual celebration of the freedom to read.

Some of the most eloquent writing on the importance of intellectual freedom comes from the courts. The following quote is not as well-known as some, but it is one of my particular favorites, as it puts forth a defense of permitting young persons the liberty to read material on adult matters. (It doesn’t hurt that I grew up in a family with three daughters, and with parents that supported our rights to free inquiry.) Justice J. Bok wrote this Opinion and Order while presiding over the Court of Quarter Sessions of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia County:

It will be asked whether one would care to have one's young daughter read these books. I suppose that by the time she is old enough to wish to read them she will have learned the biologic facts of life and the words that go with them. There is something seriously wrong at home if those facts have not been met and faced and sorted by then; it is not children so much as parents that should receive our concern about this. I should prefer that my own three daughters meet the facts of life and the literature of the world in my library than behind a neighbor's barn, for I can face the adversary there directly. If the young ladies are appalled by what they read, they can close the book at the bottom of page one; if they read further, they will learn what is in the world and in its people, and no parents who have been discerning with their children need fear the outcome. Nor can they hold it back, for life is a series of little battles and minor issues, and the burden of choice is on us all, every day, young and old. Our daughters must live in the world and decide what sort of women they are to be, and we should be willing to prefer their deliberate and informed choice of decency rather than an innocence that continues to spring from ignorance. If that choice be made in the open sunlight, it is more apt than when made in shadow to fall on the side of honorable behavior. Commonwealth v. Gordon, 66 Pa. D. & C. 101, 110 (1949).
For further information about frequently banned books, and other statistics on censorship, see the American Library Association’s websiteon Banned Books Week. For assistance in researching 1st Amendment issues, please see your Reference Librarian in person, at (713) 646-1712, or askpat@hcl.edu.