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Free to Read

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This Friday marks the end of the 27th annual Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read, sponsored by the American Library Association. Having had a week to consider the implications of banning books, it’s worth asking: Why do books come off the shelves in the first place? What are the underlying factors perpetuating censorship?

In an NPR story about book banning, Judith Krug of the ALA suggests it’s a matter of fear, and that people who want to ban books are “not afraid of the book; they're afraid of the ideas. The materials that are challenged and banned say something about the human condition."

For Krug, this is nowhere more evident than in the case of John Steinbeck’s "The Grapes of Wrath," which was banned and burned in 1939 in Kern County, Calif., where the end of the story takes place. Officials there thought Steinbeck unfairly portrayed the county’s treatment of migrant workers, and denounced the book as “libel and lie.”

This censorship may have been an attempt to protect the people of Kern County—or to control them—though as Kern County librarian Gretchen Knief wrote at the time, “Ideas don't die because a book is forbidden reading." The book ban was relinquished after a year and a half in Kern County, but "The Grapes of Wrath" has faced opposition in schools until as recently as 1993.

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This is the saddest thing I've seen all "Banned Books Week." Teacher Magazine presenting one side of a story, the false and misleading side no less, without any balance whatsoever. Worse, the brunt of the effects of the false information falls on children, the very people to whom teachers devote their careers. This is very, very sad.

Here is some "Banned Books Week" balance: http://preview.tinyurl.com/sowell

No books have been banned in the USA for many decades. Removing inappropriate books from public schools is legal--not banning, not censorship.

It is so sad to see Teacher Magazine repeating the American Library Association's propaganda without any balance whatsoever. None. You are supposed to be serving teachers, not propagandists.

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