Banned Books Week: Why do we read books?

Why do we read books?  Why do we recommend them?  Why do we delight in some and disapprove of others?  Why do we sometimes fight over them?

The answers to all these questions are the same.

We read books to be entertained, to learn, to be comforted, to be provoked, to be stimulated.


But we are not all the same.  We are different.  We are diverse.  We are a pluralist people.  So naturally we disagree.

We recommend books because we love them.  Because they contain balm or joy or information we think is valuable.  We disagree – and we fight – because we care. 

It is the supreme value – and bane – of books that they make us care.  We should celebrate this.  We should be grateful.  And we should hope we have a system to help us arbitrate and not come to blows when we disagree.

Our country is premised on inviting and welcoming and celebrating a wealth of different ideas and opinions.  That is our strength.  We are resplendent in diversity.  A free society depends on the free exchange of ideas – in the marketplace, in the public square, and in our libraries.

During Banned Books Week, we are glad that parents care enough to know what their children are reading and sometimes speak up about it. They are exercising their proper parental role in monitoring their children’s education.

We are glad that school systems across the country have an informed and democratic system to manage the book challenges that are an occasional but regular part of our democracy. 

We celebrate the wealth of educators – teachers, librarians, administrators – whose job it is to discern and select the best, up-to-date array of books featuring characters, settings, scenarios, perspectives, and worlds that stimulate and educate our nation’s student readers. We rely on them to find these books, provide these books, share these books, and recommend these books. They educate our students by providing the rich, diverse, array of different strokes that is only possible in a robust library.

Caring about the ideas in books is the beating heart of our democracy.  Read to Them celebrates the authors and publishers that create and provide these books, the educators and libraries that acquire and share these books, and the many readers – students and parents – who keep our democracy thriving by responding to these books – recommending them, asking questions about them, defending them.

Banned Books Week is a time to celebrate the public square and appreciate the free exchange of ideas, thanks to books.  The occasional arguments we may have about them are one of the healthiest ways for our children to learn about pluralism and how to respect and appreciate the diverse range of opinions and perspectives that our democracy requires to survive. Let’s make sure we show them, as adults, how to have respectful conversations and connections.


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