It’s Library Card Sign-up Month. Are your kids equipped with the essential tool? Are you encouraging them to exercise their freedom to read?
By Kimberly Blaker
“A library card,” says the American Library Association, “is the most important school supply of all.” September marks not only the start of a new school year. It is Library Card Sign-up Month, which began in 1987, when Secretary of Education William J. Bennett said “Let’s have a national campaign…every child should obtain a library card – and use it.” It is an observation still honored by the ALA and public libraries throughout the country.
Libraries today offer a broad array of free materials, services, and activities. These are just a few of the great resources they offer, and why it’s so essential to make the library an integral part of yours and your child’s life:
• Movies & films – Today’s libraries offer a great selection of mainstream movies and television series as well as educational, independent, and foreign films on DVD for children and adults alike.
• Music CDs – Music is the universal language. Your can check out pop, rock, and country CDs and even introduce your kids to a great selection of classical, jazz, blues, international music and more.
• Computer software and games – For today’s video game obsessed youth, the array of children’s educational computer software and games found in libraries is a welcome. You’ll also find teen and adult video games, instructional and reference software, and productivity software ranging from Microsoft programs to graphic design.
• Periodicals – Newspapers, magazines, and special interest periodicals are available for both in-library use and for check out.
• Books, audiobooks, and ebooks – In addition to large collections of print fiction, nonfiction and reference books, libraries offer audiobooks on CD and typically carry unabridged editions. Many libraries now offer ebooks as well in many different formats.
• Computer and Internet use – Nearly all libraries today offer free computer access for browsing the Internet as well as basic word processing programs to Excel, PowerPoint, and more.
Inter-library loan – If your library or local branch doesn’t carry a particular book or item you’re looking for, most now have inter-library and reciprocal loan programs. So your library can request the material from another library for you, or you can use your library card at other libraries in nearby communities.
• Online catalog – Nearly all libraries have their own websites with access to their complete catalog. You can browse or search for materials from home to determine availability. If the item you want isn’t available, you can usually reserve it or request inter-library loan right from your computer.
• Special events – Libraries offer a wide array of programs, events, and activities. These may include children’s story times, computer classes, enrichment programs, book discussion groups, used-book sales, author events, children’s and teen movie and craft events, and much more.
Celebrate Your Freedom to Read During Banned Books Week
Every year the Office of Intellectual Freedom receives reports and records hundreds of challenges to books. Complaints come from parents, library patrons, religious organizations, board members, teachers, administrators, and others who claim the controverted material to be offensive, sexually explicit, unsuited to the age group, or violent. But challengers to the freedom to read find a host of other reasons for the proposed banning of books as well. They argue such literature is, contains, discusses, or in their opinion, endorses, occult/Satanism, abortion, drugs, anti-family, sex education, nudity, homosexuality, sexism, racism, insensitivity, anti-ethnic, inaccuracy, religious or political viewpoints with which challengers disagree, and more.
So celebrate your freedom to read during Banned Books Week (September 24-30) by visiting your school or public library or community bookstore and selecting to read one of these top challenged books since the turn of the twenty-first century, as reported by the ALA.
Challenged Adult Books:
Some of these may be suited to younger audiences, as well. Celebrate yours and your child’s freedom to be your own judge!
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
- Challenged Teen/Young Adult Books
- This Book is Gay by James Dawson
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
- Forever by Judy Blume
- Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
- Looking for Alaska by John Green
- We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
Challenged Children’s Books:
- For Every Child a Better World by Jim Henson
- Captain Underpants (Series) by Dav Pilkey
- It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
- In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
- Bone (Series) by Jeff Smith
- Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
- Challenged Books for the Whole Family
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
- Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
More ways you can support the freedom to read!
- Purchase Banned Books Week posters, t-shirts, and bracelets. Also, download free audio public service announcements to help broadcast and spread the word of Banned Books Week. All this and more are available at www.ala.org
- Write a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper addressing the significance of this celebration and the importance of the freedom to read. Don’t forget to include your name and phone number so the editor can verify your authorship of the letter. Encourage your child to write a letter, and include his or her age and grade.
- Ask your library and local bookstore to proclaim Banned Books Week and display challenged books in honor of this annual observance.
- Find and read more challenged titles and authors at