Books have been the gateway to knowledge, self-improvement, and to understanding ourselves and our place in the universe for as long as humans first put words down on stone and papyrus. But today, there are people around the world who still ban books for various reasons, mostly political or religious.
That is why we still have a Banned Books Week, which happens to be this week, sponsored by hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the U.S. to draw attention to the problem of censorship. Why is it dangerous to ban books? Because of the slippery slope it creates, the precedent it sets to allow censorship, often (in the case of schools, for instance), based on the personal views of just one person.
How widespread is the problem? According to the American Library Association, there were 464 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2012 (although it is suspected many more go unreported). This in the "land of the free and the home of the brave?" As one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Stephen Hopkins, allegedly once said, "I ain't never heard, seen nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn't be talked about."
Perhaps that's the core issue; people are so afraid of talking about sensitive topics, they'd rather bury their heads in the sand, or play the literary equivalent of putting their hands over their ears and saying "la la la la", than have an intelligent, informed discussion. How can you even have an informed discussion on a topic, when you're not even allowed to read about it in the first place?
Parents, are you listening?