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Local Libraries Celebrate Banned Books

EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – What do J.K. Rowling, J.D Salinger, Anne Frank and Maya Angelou have in common? They are each authors of books that have been challenged or banned in some parts of the United States.

Each year during the last week of September, the American Library Association celebrates Banned Books Week. With the help of libraries and booksellers across the nation, the ALA has put a spotlight on the practice of banning books despite the right of freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

According to the ALA, nearly every library and school district across the county has a policy allowing a person to request that a book be taken off their shelves or deleted from a school curriculum.

"Even if well intentioned, censors try to limit the freedom of others to choose what they read, see, or hear," notes the ALA website.

There are no books that have been banned from the Bronxville Library, said Director Laura Eckley. In an effort to promote the freedom to read any book, Eckley has expanded Banned Book Week to include the entire month of October.

"If you read any banned book, and come in and tell us about it, we even have a small gift for you," Eckley said. "We are very happy to celebrate the freedom we have in this country to read any book we want."

Christine Uchtel, Bronxville adult reference librarian, said library officials did not feel celebrating with one week was enough time to give light to this issue, which many remain unaware of.

"Censorship is against everything libraries stand for," said Uchtel, who set up displays of frequently-challenged books, which may include Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" and Maya Angelou's "I know why the Caged Bird Sings,"

The ALA website has lists of books that have been challenged and/or banned over the years

In Culpeper, VA, the Culpeper County School District of 7,600 students had The Diary of Anne Frank banned when a few parents said the book contained "sexual material and homosexual references."

But an overwhelming majority of parents stirred up so much controversy at the banning of this book that school officials re-instated it and placed it on the reading list for a higher grade level.

One of the most challenged or banned books on the ALA list is the children's book "And Tango Makes Three," by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, a picture book based on a true story of how two male penguins nurtured an abandoned egg at the Central Park Zoo.

All of the books in the Harry Potter series are likely the most challenged children's stories, said Mary Feldhaus, children's librarian at the Eastchester Public Library.

"Public libraries are repositories of all points of view," Miss Mary said. "We are about freedom of choice."

For more information on Banned Books go to the ALA website at www.ala.org.

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