Banned Books Week Expresses Itself on YouTube

Allyson Floridia ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Copy Edited By: Caitlin Muchow

By 2015, more than 11,300 books have been petitioned by parents, schools, and others to remain unavailable to their readers. Outraged, book lovers have come together to form Banned Books Week. This week-long event, which began in 1982, was intended to celebrate books, the ones that were controversial, the ones that argued and exposed readers to the nitty gritty details of life and the ones that weren’t afraid to challenge the norm. Keeping books like Persepolis, The Bluest Eye, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower away from readers can have a negative impact, supporters of Banned Books Week believe. These books aren’t afraid to broach sensitive subjects such alcoholism, drug use, rape and politics. To read these is to learn and develop not only as a reader, but also as a human being. Lessons about race, equality, and trust are present in books likes these and it’s through reading them that people realize what they can do to create a better world. In this way, people have come together to fight censorship and to embrace all books no matter how controversial. This year’s Banned Books Week occurred from September 27 to October 3.

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Originally, libraries and bookstores would host events where people would read passages from or talk about the positives of a banned book. With the accessibility of today’s digital age, social media and the internet have become avenues for further conversation. It’s the perfect place for Banned Books Week to make another stand. In its fifth year, Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out was shouting out to readers worldwide. Through the Virtual Read-Out, readers were able to submit videos where they discuss why it’s important to have the freedom to read. These videos were featured on a special Banned Books Week YouTube channel.

Before submitting a video, readers must first fit the requirements. These are in place to protect the integrity of Banned Books Week as well as ensure the content of the videos is appropriate. According to Banned Books Week, there are four options of videos readers can make. Someone can 1) Submit a video no more than 3 minutes long of a reading from a banned or challenged book, including where and why the book was banned or challenged. The submitter can also add why they believe the book is important. 2) Choose a favorite banned/challenged book and discuss what it meant to the reader and how they would feel if they were prevented from reading it. Again, this shouldn’t be more than 3 minutes. 3) A 3 minute discussion of an eyewitness account of local challenges. 4) A clip no more than 5 minutes promoting Banned Books Week. The message should focus on celebrating the freedom to read during this time.

The content on the YouTube channel is organized by who submits. This year, there was a Virtual Read-Out by the publisher, SAGE, and ALA (American Library Association). These videos feature librarians and library members reading from banned/challenged books. There’s also a list of read-outs by fans, where anyone can submit, and a list of celebrity videos. Readings from previous years can be found below that. Some of this year’s celebrity readers include Ellen Hopkins, Leslea Newman and Mariam Gates. Whoopi Goldberg, Stan Lee, and Lois Lowry are a few of the previous celebrity guests.

In his read-out last year, Stan Lee talkec about how people thought comic books stifled a child’s imagination because the pictures are already provided. His response: “why would anyone go to see a Shakespeare play? You’re seeing the characters on stage.” Reading becomes the basis for movies, TV shows, radio shows, etc., Lee claims. He then goes on to comment how comic books can help children learn to read.

The Virtual Read-Outs are thus an outlet for people around the world to share their passion for literature. It becomes a safe place for people to express their thoughts about reading and support one another in their endeavor to end censorship. Comments for videos are positive and thankful. Though the Virtual Read-Out hasn’t been active for long, the YouTube’s page boasts 1,449 subscribers and 164,209 views. These numbers are sure to increase steadily. Banned Books Week also wants to let its supporters know that they can submit videos year round. The support of banned/challenged books isn’t segregated to one week a year, but is a continuous effort. Books, they want to remind everyone, are an outlet for creative expression, an area for deep discussion and reflection, and a place for people to share something they love with each other.

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