Let’s Ban Books?

September 09, 2008

Last week, being a busy multitasking working parent of three, we missed out on going to the library, which, for my teenage daughter is akin to missing a meal or a night of sleep. I noticed that she was re-reading (for probably the zillionth time) Copper Sun by Sharon Draper. Draper, an award-winning author and educator, is a five-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Literary Award and a New York Times bestselling author.

Copper Sun is a compelling story about a young African girl and her journey to America via the African slave trade. It has helped my daughter Taylor learn more about her own history and culture. It has also given her greater insight into the continent that I have visited so often, but that she knows mainly through gifts and photos (and the occasional houseguest).

How ironic that with more than 100 million children worldwide lacking access to education, we have an increasing focus in the United States on banning books. Are there some books that are inappropriate for children of certain age levels? Of course.  But does that mean we should remove them from our public libraries so that no one has access to them?

September 8 was International Literacy Day, a day set aside by the United Nations each year to focus attention on the need to promote worldwide literacy. The International Reading Association (IRA) co-sponsored an event in Washington, D.C., and Sharon Draper was this year’s featured guest. Despite my daughter’s (and husband’s) pleading, I refused to allow her miss school to attend, though I promised to at least get her book signed or a photo. I did send her video footage of Draper via cell phone and brought home a poster and bookmarks, so there were no hard feelings. All attendees are also getting a free copy of the book!

It was inspiring to hear Draper’s announcement of a new partnership with IRA and the D.C. Public Schools entitled Reading Across Continents. Through shared reading of two novels, Copper Sun and Purple Hibiscus (a heartfelt story of growing up in Nigeria’s political tumult by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), the RAC project unites D.C.’s School Without Walls High School students with their counterparts in secondary schools in Abuja, Nigeria, and Accra, Ghana. The D.C. students represented at the event spoke eloquently about how the experiences of Copper Sun’s 15 year-old Amari related to their own lives, how it encouraged them to learn more about their own history, and how it has given them the desire to study abroad and travel internationally.

The event also brought to mind the many book sales and literacy events championed by AAUW members to raise funds for scholarships, fellowships, and grants, enhancing the power of education in communities across the United States, one book sale at a time.

Tomorrow morning, when you scan the paper while drinking your Starbucks latte, follow the directions on the highway signs on your way to work, or read the instructions on your medicine bottle, be thankful for the gift of literacy — and take your children to the library when they ask! There are 100 million children out there who won’t be visiting one anytime soon.

Looking for good book to read? Check out AAUW’s Adelante book club list. The American Library Association will also celebrate the freedom to read later in the month during Banned Books Week, September 27-October 4.

Gloria L. Blackwell By:   |   September 09, 2008


  1. Elaine Roberts says:

    Thank you for highlighting Draper’s book, Copper Sun, by sharing your daughter’s obvious love of this book – an inspiration to share with other young girls. I’m always on the look-out for books to recommend to younger readers and am glad to have one in honor of International Literacy Day!

  2. Leslie Henderson says:

    It is astonishing to me that too often we take for granted what should be cherished – whether it’s the women’s right to vote, freedom of speech and the press, or, in Gloria’s blog, the access to public libraries. Our children were born and raised in Latin America, without a public library system. Their access to books was essentially what we could fit into a duffle bag on home leave. When we first returned to the states, we lived close to a library. The children were fascinated with the concept, and would come home from school, dash in the door, grab their bikes and head to the library – every day, including Saturdays. The idea of limiting what books are available in a library is inconceivable – even anathema – to them.

  3. Carolyn H says:

    I was delighted to learn that the new Adelante booklist is now on the AAUW website, with a new twist. There are 3 choices for each month from the topics of diversity, financial literacy and organizational change. Let’s get reading. These are wonderful resources.

  4. Gloria says:

    If you’re interested in books about or written by women with a global perspective, also check out the Women in the World list in the International Corner on AAUW’s website. You’ll find some great books there.


  5. Rusty says:

    Availability and access to books is limiting for libraries due to space and costs. The selection process may be considered censorship when not left to the librarians or library boards, but forced by some higher govermental body. This is the inconceivable part to me. It is essential that AAUW continue to provide resources like the Adelante booklist so individuals can make informed choices of their reading.

  6. Camille says:

    Time for an annual update!

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