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Celebrating the Freedom to Read

By: Darla Wegener Special to The News Messenger
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This year, during “Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read” from Saturday to Oct. 2, I am choosing to reread the recently challenged book, “Speak,” by Laurie Halse Anderson. Since 1982, people all over the country observe this annual event by reading books that influenced their lives. They do this to remind us not to take this precious democratic freedom, guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution, the freedom to read, for granted. It is important to remind people that, still today, materials are challenged and even banned. Our nation’s libraries were founded on this ideal and continue to support your freedom to choose what you read. American libraries, as a cornerstone of our democracy, are for everyone, everywhere. Because libraries provide free access to a world of information, they bring opportunity to people of all ages. Just like my daughter, children in Lincoln have started the school year, teachers are sending out reading lists and parents are going to the library and bookstore to gather the books. But did you realize that, in some cases, your favorite classics like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and “To Kill a Mocking Bird” may not be included in curriculum or available in the school library, due to challenges made by parents or administrators? It is thanks to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, and students that most challenges are unsuccessful and reading materials like “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” “Slaughterhouse Five,” the “Harry Potter” series and “Higher Power of Lucky,” remain available. As you may be aware, the most challenged or restricted reading materials have been books for children. Challenges may be an expression of a point of view of one group or individual; it is also an attempt to limit the choice of others. Even if the motivation to ban or challenge a book is well intentioned, the outcome is censorship. Censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves. Decisions about what books children should read should be made by their parents! Now, more than ever, celebrate the freedom to read at your library! Read an old favorite or a new banned book this week. Celebrate your freedom to read, think and express ideas by picking up a favorite banned or challenged book today at the library. For more information, visit the Lincoln Public Library’s two locations: Carnegie at the corner of 5th and F, 590 Fifth St. or Twelve Bridges at 485 Twelve Bridges at Colonnade. Call 434-2410, e-mail or see the library’s Web site at to get directions and hours. Darla Wegener is the city of Lincoln’s director of library services.