30 September 2018

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Since 2010 we've been a mission to explore possibilities.
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24 September 2018

Banning Books Silences Stories

graphic design by SDEDM
Our stories shape the world around us, a world that is diverse and complex. Banned Books Week is a time to celebrate, preserve, and fight for freedom to tell our stories and to fight against banning books and silencing stories. 

Censoring our stories is, essentially, censoring our world: denying a perspective is denying the richness of our human experience. Right now especially, culture needs all of our voices, all of our stories. And you have the power to make sure information and stories are heard. It’s simple: read, process, and share your insights. 

Learn more:
Seek out stories and perspectives. Because, as Banned Books Week’s video “Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2017” explains, 
"Often the most frequently challenged books, are the stories that need to be heard the most." 
Listening to stories (reading books) can help us glean not just perspective, but also context. Master storyteller John Green recognizes that “text is meaningless without context” in his video response to the banning of his 2005 novel Looking for Alaska (LibraryBorrow/IndieBuy).
Banning a book due to an offensive word or difficult subject doesn’t necessicarily take into account the entire story, or that being affected by a difficult or stressful story can help us learn.  John gets to the heart of an essential truth about the side effect of reading: “we are all better off with a well-informed, well-educated population.”  
In his video "On the Banning of Looking for Alaska", John goes on to express why stories are such important catalysts to understanding humanity,  
“Instead I believe books challenge and interrogate, they give us windows into the lives of others and give us mirrors so that we can better see ourselves.”

Read more:
Scientific research helps us understand that reading literature actually can help us empathize with one another. With the aid of story, we can begin to seek out and understand the intricate and complex within everyone. Julianne Chiaet's Scientific American article Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy elaborates, 
“This psychological awareness carries over into the real world, which is full of complicated individuals whose inner lives are usually difficult to fathom. Although literary fiction tends to be more realistic than popular fiction, the characters disrupt reader expectations, undermining prejudices and stereotypes. They support and teach us values about social behavior, such as the importance of understanding those who are different from ourselves.” 
When we ban books that challenge our set ways of thinking, we close off an opportunity to become more empathetic. Raymond A. Mar and Keith Oatley's 2008 study The Function of Fiction is the Abstraction and Simulation of Social Experience dives deeper into the study of how fiction helps us coexist,
“The simulation of social experience that literary narratives afford provides an opportunity for empathic growth. It trains us to extend our understanding toward other people, to embody (to some extent) and understand their beliefs and emotions, and ultimately to understand ourselves. Fictional literature brings close attention to distant worlds that would otherwise remain unknown.”
Speak Out: Everyone can get involved: support and advocate for free speech and expression, or report challenges and injustices.

The American Library Association (ALA) created this handy pyramid chart of public, reported, and silent challenges. It's discouraging that so many challenges go unreported, but don’t let the data get you down, you can do something. Use the ALA Challenge Reporting page, become a champion for challenged books.  
And if all this information got you as fired up as us, take a second to share on social media or why not use the old-fashioned way: word of mouth. Start a converstion about why you think your favorite banned book is an important read. And ask people in your community to do the same. If you post on social media, use the hashtag #BannedBooksWeek. Give us a shout out, we're on twitter @BooksforWalls.
For a little fun, check out New York Public Library's Banned Books Quiz, test your knowledge of challenged books
While you are at it, go ahead and support your local library --visit in person or online. Find your nearest library: www.worldcat.org/libraries