Contributed by Judy Hart, Board Chair of the ACLU of Montana  

ACLU has long fought censorship including the freedom to read whatever we choose.

The focus of Banned Books Week in 2015 is Young Adult books. "Young Adult are challenged more frequently than any other type of book," said Judith Platt, chair of the Banned Books Week National Committee. "These are the books that speak most immediately to young people, dealing with many of the difficult issues that arise in their own lives, or in the lives of their friends. These are the books that give young readers the ability to safely explore the sometimes scary real world. This Banned Books Week is a call to action, to remind everyone that young people need to be allowed the freedom to read widely, to read books that are relevant for them, and to be able to make their own reading choices.”

In recent years, the majority of the most frequently challenged books in libraries have been Young Adult (YA/teen) titles. Six YA titles were on the list of the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2014, according to the American Library Association. Attempted bans on books of all kinds also frequently occur under the guise of protecting younger audiences.   In 2014 there were 311 challenges reported to the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom.

Since its inception in 1982, Banned Books Week has reminded us that while not every book is intended for every reader, each of us has the right to decide for ourselves what to read, listen to or view. Challenges are not simply an expression of a point of view; on the contrary, they are an attempt to remove materials from public use, thereby restricting the access of others.  Censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves.

Since 1990, the American Library Association's (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has recorded more than 10,000 book challenges. A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based on the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials.  American Library Association officials estimate that as many as 80 percent of challenges are unreported. About three out of four of all challenges are to material in schools or school libraries, and one in four are to material in public libraries.

While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members like you who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.

Read a banned or challenged book today and participate in Banned Books Virtual Read-Out!  For the fourth year in a row, readers from across the country and around the world will be able to participate virtually during Banned Books Week 2014. Participants may proclaim the importance of the freedom to read by posting videos that will be featured on a dedicated Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out YouTube channel. Watch celebrity videos for the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out.

Learn more about challenges in Montana and get the new “Too Dangerous for the Big Sky?” poster and stand up for intellectual freedom in Montana!  (brought to you in partnership by American Civil Liberties Union of Montana and the Montana Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee.)